Monday, October 25, 2004

Galloping integration

So Blunkett has gone ahead and done it – he's agreed to allow QMV for "Title IV" of the Treaty of the European Union, thus extending the Commission's powers in respect of "visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons". (See previous Blogs: here, here, and here.)

For sure, the UK does have an opt-out, but Blunkett has made it clear that he will accept some of the proposals, and the Council has also accepted the Hague Programme, also known in Community jargon as Tampere II, which has some pretty horrendous implications.

But, as we are constantly finding out, this is by no means the end of it. Last Friday, without any significant publicity that I can discern, the EU commission adopted four more of its Communications on combating terrorism, reinforcing its "anti-terrorism action plan" which was adopted by the European Council in June last year. These too are being discussed by Blunkett and his fellow ministers during their meeting in Luxembourg.

Strangely, none of these communications seem to have been published yet, and the details in the press releases are disconcertingly vague. However, these seem to be all that is available, and they can be read from here, here, here and here.

The first, entitled: "Prevention, Preparedness and Response to terrorist attacks", sets the framework of the new EU plan against terrorism, proposing the "notion" that
…the fight against terrorism must be not only integrated – bringing all different policies together – but also inclusive - including all social, economic and political actors. It proposes a novel way of involving citizens, civil society and Parliaments on a reflection on how to reconcile the different objectives and concerns involved in fighting terrorism.
as well as advocating additional funding of 1 billion €/year for “security research” from 2007 onwards.

The second deals with terrorist financing, arguing for the need to “enhance information exchange among relevant actors at national, EU and international levels”, including “the need to facilitate co-operation and exchange structures encompassing fiscal authorities, financial oversight bodies, the Justice Department, intelligence community, law enforcement authorities and authorities in charge of administrative freezing”.

It suggests that law enforcement services should have access to financial institutions’ databases of account holders and their transactions, notes that member states should ensure that law enforcement services have resources to develop financial investigative skills allowing them to follow money trails, and talks about establishing “common minimum standards in financial investigative training in the EU.”

Also highlighted is “the importance of effective customer identification by banks etc.,” and the commission calls for “common EU minimum approach in terms of identification processes used by financial institutions.”

Moving on from there, in its third “COM”, entitled “Preparedness and the Consequence Management in the Fight against Terrorism”, the commission wants to strengthen “the existing instruments on civil protection and consequence management”.

It argues that “certain emergency situations may be of such gravity and the risk of their degenerating into a serious crisis so great that overall co-ordination across virtually all EU policies is necessary.” Co-operation and co-ordination between all Commission relevant rapid alert systems is, therefore, essential.

Thus, the commission wants to set up “a secure general rapid alert system”, which it will call ARGUS, to link all specialised systems for emergencies that require action at European level. With that goes a central “Crisis Centre” – run by the commission of course, to co-ordinate efforts… “and to decide on the appropriate response measures.”

Traditional law enforcement is also needed, of course, but to manage this, the commission is proposing a “European law enforcement network” (LEN) under the control of EUROPOL, linked to ARGUS, of courts. This will “serve in particular the EU law enforcement community” - the EU law enforcement community? – “using the current secure communication channels of the Europol network.”

Then, finally, as if this was not enough, we have a COM on “Critical Infrastructure Protection in the Fight against Terrorism”, which proposes “additional measures to strengthen existing instruments mainly by the establishment of a European programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection” (EPCIP).

This will provide “enhanced security for critical infrastructure as an ongoing, dynamic annual system of reporting where the Commission would put forward its views on how to assure the continued functioning of Europe's critical infrastructure.”

As part of this programme, we also get an EU “Critical infrastructure Warning Information Network” (CIWIN), also established by the commission. This will “assist member states, and owners and operators of critical infrastructure to exchange information on shared threats, vulnerabilities and appropriate measures and strategies to mitigate risk in support of critical infrastructure protection.”

And where sectorial standards do not exist or international norms have not yet been established, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and other relevant standardisation organisations will propose uniform security sectorial and adapted standards for all the various branches and sectors interested.

People, this is not the march of integration. It is integration at the gallop – new agencies galore, with the commission at the centre, co-ordinating the action. And, as we all know, you cannot "co-ordinate" with also controlling. This is, as Orwell might have said, "double-plus ungood".

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