26th Oct 2016

UK's next EU commissioner 'highly motivated'

  • Security is a top issue in Belgium and France in the wake of recent terrorist attacks (Photo: Reuters)

Britain's designated EU commissioner for security Julian King says he is "highly motivated" for the job.

In a letter sent to the European parliament ahead of a grilling from MEPs on Monday (12 September), King said his big priorities for the security portfolio would be "to strengthen our defences against terrorism and organised crime, and to build our resilience".

He was appointed to the post following the departure of EU financial services commissioner Jonathan Hill in the wake of the June UK referendum to exit the EU.

EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker created and gave the new security portfolio to King in early August in a move that surprised some given the UK opt-out on EU justice and home affairs laws.

The EU parliament, in its list of questions to King, did not ask anything related to the eventual departure.

The commission presented its broad internal security policy last April and set aside some €4 billion up until 2020 to implement its strategy.

It includes everything from cutting terrorist access to finance to cybersecurity and information sharing among EU national authorities.

King, a former UK ambassador to France, said he also wanted to implement existing instruments "to the full" including the controversial sharing of airline passenger details.

The EU passenger name records (PNR) agreement has been billed by defenders as a tool to crack down on foreign fighters and criminals.

The agreement has been heavily promoted by France.

Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, personally lobbied EU lawmakers in the lead up to the agreement's adoption in April.

Cazeneuve also pushed the issue in a joint internal security strategy published with his German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, in late August.

Both men want the agreement up and running in each member state. They also want data collected for all flights taken inside Europe.

But last week, the advocate-general of the European Court of Justice said a similar agreement with Canada violated people's fundamental rights to privacy.

The non-binding opinion is likely to factor into the Court's final verdict, which may then bear wider import on the EU's own PNR system.

The German-Franco bid also calls for an EU-wide identification management system and a greater ease of access to data hosted by Internet service providers.

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