25th Oct 2016


This WEEK in the European Union

  • Estonia suffered a large-scale cyber attack in 2007 (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)

The European Commission will on Wednesday (28 March) unveil plans for the setting up of a European cybercrime centre meant to identify the most dangerous cyber threats as well as support member states work in the area and help train national officials.

Brussels has been slow off the mark in tackling cyber crime as it struggles to keep up with a fast-changing online world. It was prompted to think properly about the issue by the large-scale cyber attack against Estonia in 2007. Last year the EU's own diplomatic service was subject to a large denial-of-service attack. Experts say a dedicated cybercrime centre is long overdue.

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The commission's recent suggestion that member states will save themselves billions of euros in EU budget contributions if they introduce a tax on financial transactions (FTT) will get its first airing on Monday.

EU ministers are due to discuss the Union's next multi-annual budget (2014-2020) with the Danish EU presidency hoping to make good progress on talks by the end of its presidency. The EU commission wants all member states to agree to introducing an FTT (with two-thirds of the revenue to go to Brussels) to give it some more spending powers. But the idea - unveiled last Thursday - is divisive. It was immediately shot down by the UK. Sweden, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Malta also strongly oppose the tax.

The controversial issue of giving European passenger details to US authorities so they can check for potential security threats will surface once again in the parliament. The civil liberties committee is due to vote on the deal on Tuesday - with the MEP in charge of the dossier, Dutch liberal Sophie In 't Veld recommending that deputies reject it.

Deputies in the trade committee will on Tuesday discuss the global anti-counterfeit treaty Acta. The agreement - designed to protect intellectual property rights but seen by critics as infringing on privacy - is currently before the EU court to see if it breaches any EU laws. The commission took the legal path after mass anti-Acta protests prompted several member states to suspend ratification of the deal. The parliament, recently handed a global 2-million anti-Acta petition, has the right to reject the agreement.

At the end of the week, a clause in the EU treaty allowing citizens to potentially have some influence on policy making goes into effect.

Under the article, one million signatures from at least seven countries on an issue that is not frivolous or offensive, and within the commission's powers, obliges the EU executive to consider law-making in the area. The ideas are already stockpiling up. One of the first off the mark is likely to be an initiative calling on the commission to never privatise water.

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