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

Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat“

In Germany there is no legal definition of „Gefährder“. They are persecuted for acts they have not yet committed. The Federal Government now wants to exchange more data on this group of people throughout the EU.

Actually, the police should prosecute suspects or defendants of a crime. Its tasks also include the prevention of a „concrete danger“, such as that emanating from persons called „troublemakers“ in police jargon. With the „Gefährder“ a third police target group has been sneaking into German law for two decades, as Heiner Busch expressed it in the magazine CILIP. This marked the beginning of a new stage in the shifting of criminal prosecution to the preliminary stage: threats are being prosecuted that have not yet even occurred.

Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, football fans or political activists were referred to as „Gefährder“, but now the category is mostly used in connection with terrorism. There is no legal term for it, instead it is a working definition, which the heads of the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Criminal Police Office vaguely outlined for the first time in 2004. According to this concept, a „Gefährder“ is a person in respect of whom „certain facts justify the assumption that they will commit politically motivated crimes of considerable importance“. „Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat““ weiterlesen

German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door

Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.

In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.

The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen

German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance

European police forces are organised in three informal networks for the exchange of information on techniques and methods of clandestine surveillance. The German Presidency wants to merge the structures and establish them with the EU. Europol could be responsible for coordination.

Police tasks include clandestine surveillance, for example to convict suspects of a crime or to prevent the commission of further offences. To this end, the authorities use technical means to listen to the spoken word, to observe with miniaturised cameras or to trace with tracking devices.

To improve covert observation and surveillance, European authorities are joining forces in three networks. Police authorities from Eastern Europe, Finland and Malta are members of the „Surveillance Cooperation Group“ (SCG) founded in Prague in 2017. The countries of the Western Balkans as well as Austria join forces in the „Surveillance Expert Network for Southeast Europe“ (SENSEE). All other EU Member States, the associated Schengen members Norway and Switzerland as well as Europol are organised in the „European Surveillance Group“ (ESG). Great Britain is also still participating in this group. „German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance“ 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

EU police forces plan new information system

European police authorities have numerous applications for communication and information exchange. Member States are now developing another platform for large-scale police operations and terrorist attacks. The European domestic secret services have a similar system.

Several European police authorities are developing a new system for the exchange of information in real time. Under the name „Quick Response for Operational Centers“ (QROC), the affiliated units are to coordinate their response following a terrorist attack. The instrument could also be used to provide support in case of major events and crises. Several Member States are currently looking for appropriate solutions, and corresponding efforts are also being made in the context of the Corona crisis.

According to the project’s website, the exchange of data on events and persons possibly involved could subsequently be carried out via the so-called „Swedish Initiative“. The Council Framework Decision of 2006 sets short deadlines for the cross-border transfer of personal data. It would also be possible to use the Prüm Framework, which enables the responsible services throughout Europe to query biometric data or data on vehicle owners. „EU police forces plan new information system“ weiterlesen

Europol Regulation: Towards a „European FBI“?

The police agency of the European Union is to be given more operational powers. A proposal to this effect from the Commission is expected in December, and the German Council Presidency wants to support the initiative with a conference in Berlin.

Normally, the European Union should not create structures that compete with the member states. This also applies to Europol: the police agency in The Hague is to coordinate investigations into cross-border crime and terrorism, but it does not have police powers. Investigations are the sole responsibility of the authorities of the Member States, which are also responsible for wiretapping, house raids and arrests.

For some years now, German politicians from different parties have been pushing for Europol to be expanded into a „European FBI“. This refers to the US agency which, as the federal police force, is responsible for criminal prosecution and intelligence. The German conservative parties even have included the „European FBI“ in their European election manifesto, and the German „police union“ is also open-minded.

„Europol Regulation: Towards a „European FBI“?“ weiterlesen

EU Presidency: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership“

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to expand Europol and the international exchange of data during its EU Presidency. European police authorities will be supported with face recognition and decryption capabilities. Also on the agenda are the Europe-wide query of police files and the exchange on a definition of persons which pose „a potential terrorist/extremist threat“.

On 1 July Germany took over the six-monthly EU Council Presidency, the last time the Federal Government held the Presidency was in the first half of 2007. In the field of Justice and Home Affairs, the programme of the Interior and Justice Ministries is under the motto „A Europe of security and common values“. Germany is focusing on a „European Police Partnership“. The term is vaguely formulated; even when asked, the Ministry of Interior merely states that cross-border cooperation between police authorities is to be „improved“ and achieved by ensuring that „every police officer has access to the necessary information from other Member States“.

What is „necessary“ will therefore be defined by the German Ministry of the Interior in the next six months. The European Union has numerous formats for the exchange of information between police and customs, and its agencies are also involved. The „European Police Partnership“ is not intended to create new instruments, but to expand the existing ones. This includes new legislative procedures. „EU Presidency: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership““ weiterlesen

EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections

In an EU-wide survey, the German Interior Ministry is examining how passenger data could be processed in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. This would require a change in the PNR directive. Possibly this would also affect bus and train travel.

On 1 July, Germany took over the EU Council Presidency in rotation. As one of the first initiatives in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, the German Ministry of the Interior is proposing to use passenger name records (PNR) collected from airlines to track Covid-19 infections. To this end, the government has sent a questionnaire to all other EU member states.

PNR data includes all information that travellers leave behind when booking and checking in with an airline, including names and contact details, credit card numbers, IP and e-mail addresses, hotels booked, fellow travellers and food preferences. This information is transmitted twice by the airlines to the relevant authorities in the destination country: when booking and when boarding the aircraft. „EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections“ weiterlesen