By Heini Järvinen

In the wake of the Paris attacks on 13 November 2015, the planning and implementation of measures taken in the name of fighting terrorism have been geared up on the EU level.

After the publication of the Council of Europe report on foreign fighters, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove stated on 7 December 2015 that the EU Member States are intensively cooperating to fight terrorism, and that according to his understanding, their intelligence services are actively exchanging data. After the Paris attacks, this had been questioned, as French and Belgian law-enforcement were not able to apprehend some of the attackers – despite clear warnings.

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De Kerchove, who stressed in front of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) earlier this year to “never let a serious crisis go to waste”, now told the European Observer that “[y]ou don’t want people to know (…) that you have Big Brother interception by satellite or that you have people infiltrating computers”.

In addition, de Kerchove suggested that the measures to fight terrorism need to be reinforced, for example the external borders of the Schengen area should be controlled in a more systematic manner, and platforms to exchange information between Schengen Information System (SIS), Europol and Interpol should be further developed. Currently, the intelligence agencies use a “third party rule”: if one country shares intelligence with another one, the latter has to ask permission to share it with yet another country. According to de Kerchove, the system creates an additional constraint, and is in need of streamlining.

The Treaty on European Union limits the responsibility of national security to each member state. For the creation of a “European CIA”, a European central intelligence agency, or law-enforcement cooperation resembling the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as has been suggested, the Treaty would have to be modified. However, de Kerchove pointed out that nothing prevents certain countries from cooperating independently, outside coordinated EU level decisions.

EU defends intelligence agencies in wake of attacks (07.12.2015)
https://euobserver.com/justice/131416

Council of Europe: Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq
http://website-pace.net/documents/10643/1264407/20151208-Foreign+Fighters-ResRecPROV-EN.pdf/5ad987dd-9159-4138-9fd3-76a77ef0573f

Gilles de Kerchove: “We need a systematic border controls in the Schengen area” (only in French, 07.12.2015)
http://www.lalibre.be/actu/international/gilles-de-kerchove-il-faut-un-controle-systematique-aux-frontieres-de-l-espace-schengen-56659eca35708494c957fb38

Gilles de Kerchove: “We would have to change the treaty if we wanted to create a European CIA” (only in French, 01.12.2015)
https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_gilles-de-kerchove-il-faudrait-changer-le-traite-si-on-voulait-creer-une-cia-europeenne?id=9152890

EDRi: Civil Liberties Committee preliminary vote on EU profiling of airline passengers (09.12.2015)
https://edri.org/civil-liberties-committee-preliminary-vote-on-eu-profiling-of-airline-passengers/

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