Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war

Most of the action is being taken by Europol and Frontex, which together have deployed around 280 staff to the region. Eurojust collects evidence against war crimes. The agency for the operation of large databases, on the other hand, plays a minor role.

At the end of March, the European Council called on its member states to better coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine. In addition to this ten-point plan and initial emergency financial aid of €668 million, the government in Kiev is being supported by individual member states in the security sector with military aid against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU is providing €2.5 billion for this purpose. On 25 July 2022, the European Investment Bank approved an additional €1.6 billion aid package for reconstruction.

Less well known is the support provided by EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies, some of which are also carrying out extensive operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. As a „network of JHA agencies“, they published a joint statement with a „commitment to assist“ just two weeks after the war began. Some of them participate in the „Working Group on Integrated Political Crisis Response“, through which the EU aims to react on security incidents. A recently published overview describes the different activities. „Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war“ weiterlesen

„Action day“ on Soundcloud: Europol also removes right-wing extremist content

Currently, removal requests to hosting providers only have to be voluntarily complied with, but on 7 June, the regulation on mandatory removal of terrorist online content will come into force. It only applies to jihadist propaganda. The German government is only now introducing an implementation law.

Once again, Europol has held a „Referral Action Day“ on the removal of internet content. This time the focus was on the online music service Soundcloud. The EU police agency reported around 1,100 illegal audio files and user profiles with terrorist or extremist content to the provider.

The „Action Day“ covered the week between 5 and 13 May. The activities were led by the Counter-Terrorism Centre, which was set up at Europol by EU interior ministers in 2015. This is also where the Internet Content Reporting Unit (EU IRU) is located, which is responsible for detecting and reporting content. „„Action day“ on Soundcloud: Europol also removes right-wing extremist content“ weiterlesen

„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted

The Internet Referral Unit in The Hague also monitors social media for the purpose of prosecuting people who help refugees. However, the removal of content is not obligatory for providers.

The EU police agency has reported at least 455 accounts on social media „promoting illegal immigration services from Belarus to Europe“ to internet companies for deletion. The information comes from a Europol press release from December last year and can now also be found in the current annual report of the Europol-based Centre against Migrant Smuggling (EMSC). The extent to which companies have complied with the reports is not known; Europol gives the number as „many“. Their compliance remains voluntary, even after the transposition deadline of the EU regulation on combating the spread of terrorist content online starts on 7 June.

The deletion requests related to fleeing via Belarus were made in cooperation with Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) in The Hague, which is based at the anti-terrorism centre there. Shortly afterwards, EU governments agreed to extend its remit to include prohibited support for irregular migration. However, reports on „terrorism“ continue to make up the majority of the content objected to by Europol. „„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted“ weiterlesen

Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year

Currently, hosting providers can decide whether to voluntarily comply with removal requests in the area of „Islamist terrorism“ from Europol. From 7 June, these will become removal orders, which can be sent directly to companies by national authorities via a new platform.

With the Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), Europol operates since 2015 a platform for tracking postings that police authorities classify as „terrorist“ or „violent extremist“. It is part of Europol’s Counter-Terrorism Centre in The Hague. So far, the reports from the EU IRU are so-called referrals, i.e. requests for deletion, which are passed on to the corresponding hosting providers.

The companies decide for themselves whether to comply with the objectionable content, but in the past it was removed immediately in most cases. In addition to providers such as Google, Meta or Apple, Telegram also cooperates with Europol and has participated in joint „action days“ on the internet since 2019, for example. „Referral Unit at Europol: German police had thousands of internet contents removed last year“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul

A high-ranking EU advisor has drawn up recommendations for the Council and the Commission on how to deal with evacuees and refugees from Afghanistan. The focus is on more cooperation with secret services and NATO.

The European Union’s anti-terrorism coordinator proposes 22 measures for dealing with Afghan refugees. An action plan, published by the British organisation Statewatch, addresses the four areas of security controls, strategic intelligence, countering propaganda as well as terrorist financing.

The recommendations by the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove are based on a declaration by the EU interior ministers on 31 August. There, flight and migration from Afghanistan are seen primarily as a security problem. „Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul“ weiterlesen

Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat

A handful of property damages in Italy could lead to left-wing activism being pursued more closely by police and secret services across the European Union. The initiative bears the hallmarks of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Meanwhile, a package of measures against „violent right-wing extremism and terrorism“ has petered out.

In the Terrorism Annual Report for 2020 (TESAT), Europol recently counted 24 left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks. According to the report, the incidents all took place in Italy, with none of them resulting in human casualties. Most of the attacks were on mobile phone masts and other telecommunications infrastructure, such as relays or cables. Meanwhile, the same report counts only one right-wing terrorist attack, Hanau (Germany), which left nine dead, and six jihadist attacks that killed 12 people.

Each country can determine for itself whether the incidents mentioned in the TESAT are classified as „extremist“ or „terrorist“. It is obvious that the high figures for „left-wing terrorism“ are due to the special counting method of Italian authorities. Nevertheless, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has now presented a paper proposing initiatives against a „left-wing terrorism“. „Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat“ 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

Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services

Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.

The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.

The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen