Security Union: Significant progress and tangible results over past years but efforts must continue

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Commission is taking stock of the progress made in the past years towards achieving an effective and genuine Security Union. The report presented today recaps the initiatives taken by the Commission in some of the key areas of the Security Union including, the fight against terrorism, information exchange, countering radicalisation and cybersecurity, while noting that further efforts are needed, in particular on the implementation of EU security legislation. In the context of the Christchurch attack in March 2019, the Commission is also recommending the EU start negotiations with New Zealand on the exchange of personal data with Europol to fight serious crime and terrorism.

Commissioner for Migration, Citizenship and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “The security of European citizens has been an absolute priority for this Commission from day one. Building on the European Agenda on Security, we established an effective and genuine Security Union – built on trust, sharing resources, and facing threats together. We can be proud of many tangible results – such as EU security laws to better track down dangerous criminals, combat terrorism – online and offline and limit access to firearms – but the most important is the change of our security mentality. I call on Member States to ensure that the EU security rules are enforced and our citizens better protected.”

Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “Over the past few years, we have made substantial progress in enhancing our collective security. It is by working together and responding in a coordinated way that we can best address today’s complex and multi-faceted security challenges from terrorism, cybercrime and disinformation. But there is more to do. We need to continue our efforts to close down the space in which terrorists operate – offline and online, within the EU and beyond. I look forward to the Council’s green light to start negotiations with New Zealand, a strategic partner in the fight against serious crime and terrorism.” 

Progress under key pillars of the Security Union

Today’s report outlines the progress made on the priority security legislative files as well as recent initiatives taken to ensure security of European citizens both offline and online. The report in particular focuses on:

  •     Terrorist content online – Given the continuous threat posed by terrorist content online, the Commission calls on both the European Parliament and the Council to reach an agreement on the proposed legislation by the end of 2019. In parallel, work has been taken forward through voluntary partnerships with online platforms with the participants of the EU Internet Forum having committed to an EU Crisis Protocol – a rapid response mechanism to contain the viral spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.
  •     Improved information exchange – Member States are exchanging more information than ever before, notably thanks to the assistance offered by EU Agencies such as Europol. However, to close remaining information gaps and blind spots, it is crucial that EU security information systems can talk to each other. This is why the Commission has made the implementation of the interoperability proposals by 2020 its top security priority. The Commission also calls on the European Parliament and the Council to reach swift agreement on all pending legislative proposals on security information systems, including the technical implementation of ETIAS and the strengthened Visa Information System.
  •     Cybersecurity – The EU has significantly enhanced its cyber resilience and is now working towards ensuring cybersecurity of 5G networks. Following the EU coordinated risk assessment, Member States should now agree on a toolbox of mitigating measures by 31 December.
  •     Disinformation – The EU has also continued its efforts to tackle disinformation and protect the integrity of elections through the self-regulatory Code of Practice on Disinformation from October 2018. One year on, whilst good efforts have been made by the signatories, more action is needed from online platforms, in particular when it comes to empowering consumers and commitments to empower the research community.
  •     Enforcing EU security laws – A number of key EU security laws on terrorism and cybercrime are not yet fully implemented by all Member States. This includes priority files such as the exchange of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data and the Directive on combatting terrorism. Only 13 Member States are implementing EU rules on stricter access to firearms and 21 Member States have yet to transpose EU anti-money laundering rules. In addition, 23 Member States are still not enforcing EU rules criminalising child sexual abuse and 4 Member States are not complying with EU legislation on attacks against information systems. The Commission calls on Member States, as a matter of urgency, to take the necessary measures to ensure full implementation of EU security laws.
  •     Security cooperation with the Western Balkans – On 9 October, the Commission signed counter-terrorism arrangements with Albania and North Macedonia, as a follow up to the Joint Action Plan. On 7 October, the EU also signed an agreement on border management cooperation between Montenegro and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

Finally, the Commission has been stepping up cooperation and information exchange with other partner countries, organisations and relevant stakeholders – key in building an effective and genuine Security Union. The Commission is today recommending that the Council authorise the opening of negotiations for an agreement to allow for exchange of personal data between Europol and New Zealand authorities responsible for fighting serious crime and terrorism. While similar negotiations are already ongoing with 8 priority countries in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, the Commission considers it necessary to start such negotiations with New Zealand, adding it to the list of priority countries. The agreement would ensure the necessary data protection, privacy, fundamental rights and freedoms safeguards.

Background

Security has been a political priority since the beginning of the Juncker Commission’s mandate – from President Juncker’s Political Guidelines of July 2014 to the latest State of the Union Address on 12 September 2018.

The European Agenda on Security guides the Commission’s work in this area, setting out the main actions to ensure an effective EU response to terrorism and security threats, including countering radicalisation, boosting cybersecurity, cutting terrorist financing as well as improving information exchange. Since the adoption of the Agenda, significant progress has been made in its implementation, paving the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union. This progress is reflected in the Commission’s reports published on a regular basis.

On 20 June, EU leaders adopted an agenda for the EU for the next five years, ‘A new strategic agenda 2019-2024′, in which the objective of ‘protecting citizens and freedoms’ ranks top of 4 main priorities for the Union.

In April 2019, Europol and New Zealand signed a working arrangement, which provides a framework for a structured strategic-level cooperation but not a legal basis to exchange information on personal data. Following the formal request by New Zealand in August 2019, the Commission has asked the Council today to start negotiations on an agreement, which would allow for such exchange.

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