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

The EU in Crypto War

Once again, the EU member states demand the weakening of encryption, associations and activists protest vehemently

The German EU Council Presidency wants to pass a resolution to give police forces and secret services easier access to encrypted communications. Operators of end-to-end encrypted services are to provide the authorities with opportunities to intercept. This would apply to platforms such as Signal or WhatsApp, which encrypt their data streams in general. Telegram also offers its users this option, but the end-to-end encryption must be set separately in the app.

On December 3, the resolution drafted by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior is to be discussed and adopted at the Council of Interior Ministers in Brussels. The British civil rights organization Statewatch had put a first draft online, and on Sunday the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) published a new version. It functionalizes the recent attack in Vienna as a necessity for competent authorities to read encrypted communication. „The EU in Crypto War“ 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

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

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

After Albania and Montenegro, Frontex now plans mission in Serbia

After Albania, the EU Border Agency has started an operation in Montenegro. The mission at the Croatian land border is to be extended to the sea borders. A status agreement with northern Macedonia is about to be signed, negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are continuing.

On 15 July the EU border agency Frontex launched a new operation in Montenegro. After Albania, this is the second long-term operation in a third country outside the European Union. It follows the conclusion of a status agreement which came into force in July. It is led by the Montenegrin Border Police, Frontex provides support in terms of personnel, equipment and coordination of joint activities.The area of operation is the land border with Croatia. The government in Zagreb was therefore involved in drawing up the operation plan in accordance with Article 74 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 on the European Border and Coast Guard. „After Albania and Montenegro, Frontex now plans mission in Serbia“ 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

European Commission finds shortcomings in the implementation of the Passenger Name Record Directive

Only two EU Member States have not yet implemented the EU PNR Directive, and almost all of them also use it for flights within the European Union. There are problems with data protection and data quality. Regardless of the lawsuits before the European Court of Justice, the EU Commission is working on an extension.

Four years ago, the European Union adopted the „EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive“. In order to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences and serious crime, the 26 EU member states participating in the directive are to set up a Passenger Information Unit (PIU), which will receive extensive data records on passengers from the airlines when they book and board flights. The European Commission has now submitted a report on the implementation of the measures, as required. „European Commission finds shortcomings in the implementation of the Passenger Name Record Directive“ weiterlesen