Thursday

26th Apr 2018

EU to increase intelligence sharing with Arab states

  • Mogherini: 'We know very well that the first victims of terrorists and terrorist attacks are Muslims and are Arab countries' (Photo: European council)

The EU wants to step up security and intelligence co-operation with neighbouring countries to counter terrorist threats.

The plan is part of a broader effort discussed on Monday (19 January) by EU foreign ministers to reduce the risk of militant attacks by getting national intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share data and to communicate better with each other and their counterparts in Turkey, north Africa, and Asia.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

An EU source said it could involve a future proposal by the EU’s counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove to rebuild dismantled intelligence agencies in post-Arab spring countries, such as Tunisia.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Brussels she wants "security attaches" posted in EU delegations to help liaise with the host country’s authorities.

She also wants to reach out to Arab-speaking populations by "improving our capacity to speak Arabic, read Arabic" and "listen to the messages coming from the Arab world".

Mogherini, in a separate meeting with Arab League secretary general Nabil El Arabi, agreed to work closer together on counter-terrorism threat and announced that projects would be launched in the coming weeks with Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, the Gulf countries and some African nations.

“We know very well that the first victims of terrorists and terrorist attacks are Muslims and Arab countries,” she said.

Monday’s meeting, marked by a sense of urgency, outlined plans with formal decisions set to be taken on 12 February.

A meeting in Brussels is also planned in the next few days with experts from the EU, US, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and UN agencies to figure out how to cut the funding schemes that bankroll militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders, which left 17 dead, has seen national governments trying to fast track security measures provisionally announced last October.

These includes, among others, stepping up external border checks and blocking, with the help of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, online content that glorifies the violence perpetrated by Islamic militants.

But concerns are mounting that additional security calls made by national governments, such as confiscating passports, pose a threat to civil liberties and may result in unanticipated adverse affects.

Passport seizures 'alienate'

The director of the Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, Mark Singleton, told this website that government-led moves to confiscate travel documents of suspected jihadists could provoke further attacks.

“Generally speaking, withdrawing passports of those persons intent on leaving, might deter some, but it may just as well have adverse effects: the individual may become so frustrated that they decide to retaliate by attacking local targets,” he said in an email.

There are also legal ramifications.

He pointed out that presenting compelling evidence to justify the sanction of withdrawing a passport is challenging “to say the least, and arguably in violation of international law.”

“Treating everyone as though they pose an equal threat is incorrect and likely to contribute to further alienation of the vast majority of potential returnees from their home countries and communities, thereby condemning them to exposure to a very dangerous environment,” he said.

“This is not to say that withdrawing one's passport should never be considered; but to apply it indiscriminately is not a wise approach.”

The plans, backed by the European Commission, are already in the process of being enacted or debated by a handful of governments, including Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and others.

Belgium, for its part, remains on high alert.

Fear of follow-up attacks surfaced after a deadly standoff in the east of the country last Thursday when police discovered a stash of explosives, fake IDs, and assault rifles.

On Monday, Greek police arrested a 33-year old Algerian after Belgium issued a European Arrest Warrant.

The counter-terrorism division of the Hellenic Police say the man was allegedly involved in terrorist activity in Belgium.

“The arrested is being led today to the competent public prosecutor, since the Belgian authorities have requested his extradition,” they said in a statement.

PNR not formally discussed

Ministers also backed a stalled EU-wide data exchange bill that requires airlines to hand over passenger details to the police.

The issue was not formally debated as it falls into under the responsibility of EU interior ministers.

But Mogherini, Belgian foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders, along with his counterparts from Ireland and the United Kingdom, all spoke out in favour of the data exchange pact.

“I hope the European Parliament will change its attitude on the issue [PNR] and authorize the setting up of an EU-wide PNR along with collaboration of other partners like the United States, Canada,” Reynders said.

Civil liberty groups and the European parliament’s liberal and green parties say the so-called EU PNR (passenger name record) bill would erode privacy rights.

They note it also risks being struck down by the European Court of Justice unless additional safeguards are added.

The Luxembourg-based court in April annulled the EU data retention directive on the basis that it violated fundamental rights and was disproportionate.

Interview

Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs

The EU should not share out military HQs for political reasons if it wants effective armed forces, Italy's former defence chief tells EUobserver.

Feature

Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Spanish special forces seized a boat from African 'pirates' as diplomats watched on Monday, in a drill marking Spain's bid to grab a top EU military mission from the UK.

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

EU foreign ministers to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK over Russia's chemical attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  2. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  3. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  6. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  7. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  9. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  10. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  11. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  12. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off

Latest News

  1. EU tells platforms to sort fake news by October or face new law
  2. Civil society chief: social media can't replace engagement
  3. The reality behind the €7 'Brexit bombshell visa'
  4. Commission wants bigger post-Brexit budget
  5. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  6. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  7. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs
  8. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  2. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  6. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  9. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  10. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  11. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  12. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe