Council and Commission: EU seeks two high-level security coordinators

After 14 years, the Council wants to recruit a new Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. Her remit will be expanded to include hybrid threats and cybersecurity. The Commission is also creating such a post.

The member states united in the European Council want to fill the position of the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC). The Council Secretariat has sent out an internal call for applications, the deadline is 15 June. The appointment will be made by the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy after consensus in the Council. The post is limited to five years, but a single reappointment is possible.

The creation of a CTC was decided by the then EU member states after the terrorist attacks of 11 March 2004 in Madrid as part of a declaration on the fight against terrorism. It is at the highest political level of the European Union. The post was first held by the Dutchman Gijs de Vries, and in 2007 the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove was appointed. „Council and Commission: EU seeks two high-level security coordinators“ weiterlesen

EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption

The Portuguese Presidency is calling for an EU-wide regulation on access to encrypted content by police and judiciary. This should also affect device manufacturers. Failure to comply could result in companies being banned from doing business in the EU.

The European Union is to adopt a legal framework on decryption in the near future so that authorities can access „lawfully relevant data“. This was written by the Portuguese EU Council Presidency in a Communication which also presents a roadmap for this purpose. An important milestone is a proposal for „way forward“, which the EU Commission will prepare by 2022.

The paper from Portugal has been coordinated with the previous German and the upcoming Slovenian EU Presidencies. The German Ministry of the Interior had taken a new initiative against end-to-end encryption at the start of this so-called trio presidency and adopted a Resolution and Conclusions on the implementation of decryption capabilities. It states that the member states themselves should decide on the methods they use. „EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption“ weiterlesen

Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course

Member states‘ foreign and defence ministries are today discussing future European Union military capabilities, including how to respond to „cyber threats“. The fodder for this „Strategic Dialogue“ comes from the domestic and foreign intelligence services. MEPs are not allowed to see any of the top-secret documents.

The EU member states are working on new guidelines for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). These are to be summarised in a „Strategic Compass“, on the basis of which concrete measures and operations will then be decided. In this way, the governments are further expanding the initially rather defensive „EU Global Strategy“.

The Global Strategy adopted in 2016 envisages that the European Union will increase its arms expenditure and the number of its military missions. With the legally controversial Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the proposals were implemented in a relatively short time. PESCO defines concrete measures for research and development of military systems, including „cyber defence and response“, „reconnaissance and space“ and drones at sea, on land and in the air. „Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course“ weiterlesen

Cryptowars and migration: Great Britain continues to influence EU policy

The British exit from the European Union strengthens cooperation in informal circles. One of these questionable alliances is now launching measures to decrypt secure communications. This also involves the US government.

With Brexit, the UK has left the „European area of Freedom, Security and Justice“. From the EU’s point of view, the Kingdom became a third country, which can still participate in various measures of the Schengen states via a „Trade and Cooperation Agreement“. However, the government no longer has any say at EU level.

Nevertheless, according to a statement by the British Home Office, the country remains part of the „G6 Group“, in which the interior ministers of the six most populous EU member states have organised themselves for 18 years. The agenda of the most recent meeting at the end of March included the prevention of immigration. Home Secretary Priti Patel presented „landmark changes“ to the British asylum system. By „intelligence and expertise“, the Kingdom’s authorities wanted to „tackle illegal migration across the continent“. „Cryptowars and migration: Great Britain continues to influence EU policy“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland

Presumably because of the Corona pandemic, queries to Europe’s largest wanted persons database have dropped drastically. Irish authorities now also participate in the system, but are only allowed to process about a third of the wanted persons entered there.

On Monday, Ireland joined the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This makes the Republic a participant in the largest and most widely used information system in Europe. The SIS II was set up in 1995 partly to compensate for the removal of internal border controls. Another purpose of the system is to improve „internal security“.

In the SIS II, the authorities involved can enter searches for persons and objects. By far the largest part, with about 87 million entries, concerns vehicles or documents reported as lost or stolen. As of 1 January, according to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 933,061 persons were listed in the SIS II. After Brexit, around 37,000 UK-registered persons and 4.6 million objects were deleted on 31 December. „Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland“ weiterlesen

Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion

Internet service providers comply with police requests to remove content on a large scale on a voluntary basis, but a legislative proposal would force them to cooperate. An agreement could still be reached under the German Presidency of the Council.

Negotiations on an EU regulation against the distribution of terrorist content online could be successfully concluded in the coming weeks. Following the recent attacks in France and Vienna, the Parliament and the Member States of the European Union have made concessions on key points. This emerges from a draft of 9 November which was put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch on the trilogue negotiations in which the Commission is also involved.

With the legislative proposal for a „Regulation on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online“ presented by the Commission two years ago, the EU is pressing for „enhanced action“ against terrorist activities. A whole chapter of the draft is devoted to measures that should „effectively tackle“ uploading and sharing of text, images, sound recordings and videos, including a one-hour time limit between placement of the order and its implementation as well as technical means to prevent a reupload. Critics had understood this to mean the introduction of upload filters even for small providers. „Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion“ weiterlesen

Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists

Only after the attack in Christchurch did the EU Commission and the Council take violent right-wing extremism and terrorism more seriously. However, no progress has been made in the cross-border fight against the phenomenon. Some Member States are putting the brakes on political decisions and consider terrorist attacks only as „extremism“.

On 15 March 2019, the Australian-born right-wing terrorist Brenton Tarrant shot 51 people in cold blood and injured another 50 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator is considered a „lone wolf“ or „lone actor“, i.e. an individual who has radicalised himself in right-wing forums and social media on the internet. For many years, European police and secret services have monitored and prosecuted the phenomenon exclusively in the field of Islamist terrorism. Only after the momentous attack did cross-border right-wing networks and „lone actors“ radicalised through their structures find their way onto the EU agenda.

There are well-organised right-wing extremist associations such as Blood and Honour, Combat 18, Hammerskins, Soldiers of Odin, the Nordic Resistance Movement or the Identitarians, which all operate throughout Europe and also have connections on other continents. Their activities were partly observed by the EU, but not perceived as a threat. The EU police agency Europol publishes the „Trend Report on Terrorism in Europe“ (TESAT) every year. There, „right-wing terrorism“ is still at the end of the document after „jihadist terrorism“, „ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism“ and „left-wing terrorism“, where Europol counts mainly arson attacks in the member states. „Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists“ weiterlesen

Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol

Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.

The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.

With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen

German Ministry of the Interior plans EU declaration against encryption

Since 2016, the Council and Commission of the European Union have been working on ways to decrypt digital content. After setting up a department at Europol, the Internet companies are now being urged to cooperate more. They are to provide police and secret services with decrypted data on request.

Within the framework of its EU Council Presidency, the German government wants to achieve a declaration on encrypted communication on the Internet. This common line taken by all member states should put pressure on service providers to introduce appropriate solutions for decrypting. According to a Council document published yesterday by the British Civil Liberties Organization, the individual governments are to send their position to an e-mail address of the German Ministry of the Interior by October 7. After that, the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) will decide on how to proceed. There, the national interior ministries are coordinating among themselves. „German Ministry of the Interior plans EU declaration against encryption“ weiterlesen

Frontex has a weapon problem

According to the new regulation, a total of 1,500 forces are to be located directly at Frontex. This is the first time that the European Union is commanding a police corps with a common uniform. However, there is no legal basis for the planned acquisition of weapons, ammunition and „non-lethal equipment“.

By 2027 the EU Border Agency wants to establish a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 border police officers. The personnel, almost two-thirds of which are to be recruited by next year, is divided into four categories. 3,000 additional „Category 1“ officers are to be directly subordinated to the agency’s headquarters in Warsaw. At present there are about 1,500 employees working there, most of them are not uniformed. In order to be able to grow up, Frontex is moving its headquarters in 2024 to a new building, also erected in the Polish capital.

With 1,500 officers, the „long-term“ deployment forces in „Category 2“ represent a comparatively small part of the „permanent reserve“. These are personnel from the Member States who are seconded to Frontex for at least 24 months. The German Federal Police will initially deploy 61 police officers, later it is planned to increase to 225. Frontex wants to mobilize 5,500 officers from the Member States for short-term deployments in „Category 3“, and another 1,500 in the „Reserve for Immediate Action“ in „Category 4“. Here the agency will draw on the existing „Rapid Border Intervention Teams“, which have so far only been deployed in Greece. „Frontex has a weapon problem“ weiterlesen