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

Europol steers arms companies for security research

Following the example of the US Department of Defense, Europol should coordinate European security research. In October, the EU interior ministers had decided on an „Innovation Laboratory“ at the Police Agency. Due to potential confusion, the department will now be renamed.

Since 1984, the European Union has organised its civil security research in multi-annual framework programmes, the current programme is called „Horizon 2020“. Arms companies are involved in many of these projects; they are conducting research with institutes and authorities on drone tanks for border control, stopping „non-cooperative vehicles“ with electromagnetic pulses or observing cities and borders by satellite. International agreements enable the involvement of third countries, for example Israel’s largest drone manufacturer has been involved in numerous projects for decades. „Europol steers arms companies for security research“ 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

EU adopts system for cyber sanctions

Anyone who „maliciously“ penetrates European information systems from a third country must expect a ban on entry and the confiscation of assets. However, it is unclear how such an attack is to be attributed.

The European Union has adopted new ways of responding to cyber attacks. Suspected attackers from third countries must reckon with sanctions. A corresponding regulation was approved by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on Friday and subsequently published in the EU Official Journal. It is therefore in force immediately.

In the „Regulation on restrictive measures against cyber attacks threatening the Union or its member states“, the EU states follow a graduated procedure. As with violations of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act, persons, organisations or other „institutions“ are placed on a sanctions list and banned from entering the EU. Their assets can be confiscated or „frozen“. Sanctions may also be imposed on persons or entities associated with the persons concerned. Aid and abet to circumvent the EU measures will also be penalised. „EU adopts system for cyber sanctions“ weiterlesen

EU intelligence centre facing new challenges

The European Union installs a „Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox“, in which secret services should play a bigger role. Among other things, the member states want to find a common diplomatic response to „malicious cyber activities“ as quickly as possible. The new tasks of the Intelligence Situation Centre are highly controversial.

The European Union has no competence to coordinate secret services. Nevertheless, there is a network for them in Brussels. The EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (INTCEN) employs around 100 staff. They are not allowed to conduct their own spying or use informerants. Instead, they process „finished intelligence“ material from the Member States. INTCEN’s products include „intelligence assessments“, „strategic assessments“ and „special reports and briefings“. „EU intelligence centre facing new challenges“ weiterlesen

How European secret services organise themselves in „groups“ and „clubs“

For cross-border cooperation, Europe’s secret services or their responsible ministries join together in non-transparent formats. These networks are difficult to monitor and control.

„Club de Berne“ and CTG

One of the most important cooperations is the „Club de Berne“, in which domestic intelligence services of all other EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland participate. The „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 as an annual meeting of the directors of Western European domestic intelligence services. In 2001, the association founded a „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG), in which members regularly exchange information on incidents and discuss follow-up measures. Since 1 July 2016, the Bern Club and its CTG are running an „operational platform“ in The Hague. The domestic intelligence services there maintain a common database and a real-time information system. Details are secret, so parliamentary control of the activities in The Hague is hardly possible. The CTG is supposed to network more closely with police structures of the EU or individual member states, and „soundings“ have been underway with Europol since spring 2016. „How European secret services organise themselves in „groups“ and „clubs““ weiterlesen

Yet another new European intelligence forum: the Paris Group

Intelligence service coordinators from 15 European countries are organising themselves in a new group, known as “G15”. Initial meetings have been held in Berlin and Rome. The attendees were meant to remain anonymous – but one of them has broken cover.

Rather unexpectedly, a number of European governments have initiated moves to set up yet another intelligence network, whose remit will go beyond cooperation among national agencies and is likely to involve foreign intelligence services as well. Early this year, the intelligence service coordinators from 15 countries formed the Paris Group, known in some publications as “G15”.

The German Government describes the group as a “discussion format” in response to the terror attacks “on European soil”. Germany’s representative is Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, Federal Intelligence Service coordinator at the Federal Chancellery. It is not known where the Paris Group first met; however, in May, the members convened – probably for the second time – in Berlin. The meeting was organised and chaired by Fritsche. Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks, gave the opening speech. A follow-up October meeting in Rome was organised by the Italian intelligence service coordinator.  „Yet another new European intelligence forum: the Paris Group“ weiterlesen

Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center

European intelligence services are establishing a „Counter Terrorism Centre“ in the Dutch city The Hague. The centre belongs to the „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG) that was founded by the so called Club of Berne in 2001.

It consists of domestic intelligence services from all European member states plus Norway and Switzerland. France and Italy are participating with two different authorities. The CTG members are now invoked to send liason officers towards the Dutch centre. Which security services will participate in the „Counter Terrorism Centre“ is yet unclear. Reportedly to German media „not even half of the countries want to join“. „Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center“ weiterlesen

Implementing the „solidarity clause“: EU secret service to be reinforced?

The „solidarity clause“, known more formally as Article 222 of the Lisbon Treaty, regulates the use of police, secret service and military means in case of a crisis within the EU. The EU Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy issued a proposal in December for the legal implementation of the clause. [1]

When the clause is implemented, Member States and EU institutions will be bound to assist one another in the case of a disaster („any situation, which has or may have an adverse impact on people, the environment or property,“ according to the Commission’s proposal) or terrorist attack, as defined in the 2002 Council Framework Decision on combating terrorism. The clause determines that engagement in the territory of another state shall only be allowed at the „request of its political authorities“. „Implementing the „solidarity clause“: EU secret service to be reinforced?“ weiterlesen