Tuesday 22 January 2008, by European Presidency
All the versions of this article:
The Slovenian Presidency is holding a number of events relating to border controls and measures to combat international organised crime, including JHA meetings. The most recent included a joint seminar of the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum and the CATS (Art 36 committee). One of the conclusions (see final paragraph) is that legal responses are needed to deal with technical weaknesses.
A recent Challenge book (Are you who you say you are? Ed J Lodge) however also stresses that information exchange and sharing by ICTs should prioritise baking in security requirements (against data misuse, fraud, sloppy administration etc) and make it the starting point of any system architecture and associated practice, and not add it on as an optional extra.
As part of its endeavours to strengthen the fight against terrorism and cooperation between the competent services in the field of justice and home affairs the Slovenian Presidency organised a joint seminar of the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) and the coordinating committee for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters – Article 36 Committee (CATS), which was held in Ljubljana on 17 and 18 January 2008.
The purpose of the seminar was to emphasise two important topics at the highest professional level. The first one was the fight against terrorism as a contemporary global phenomenon and the discussion focused on the security sector reforms in less developed countries as a possible form of global fight against terrorism, a balance between counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights, especially the right to protection (asylum), and the improvement of cooperation between different institutions, agencies and organisations active in this area.
The other topic, which is also very pertinent, was the issue of adequate interconnection of information and communication systems and their development in the future.
On the first day, the following experts gave presentations on terrorism as a global phenomenon:
Dr Theodor Winkler from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) described the possibilities and experience of security sector development in less developed countries and pointed out the added value the security sector reforms bring to the fight against terrorism, particularly in reducing radicalisation and recruitment for terrorist attacks. He emphasised that although investing in the security sector reform is a costly and professionally very demanding exercise, it provides sustainable solutions and improvement of the situation in the long run.
Mr Vincent Cochetel from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) particularly emphasised the protection of human and refugee rights. He said that countries had an obligation to provide refugees with protection but stressed that refugees were not in a privileged position before the law and that they too, like all other inhabitants of the European Union, had to observe legislation and rules. If they commit serious criminal offences or are suspected of having committed terrorist acts, they are not entitled to the same rights and protection. He particularly singled out the danger of stigmatisation and generalisation and the need for each case to be dealt with individually. Countries have to do more to prevent the stigmatisation of refugees and generalisation on the basis of, for instance, religion or race.
William Shapcott from the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen), IIkka Laitinen from Frontex, Max-Peter Ratzel, Director of Europol, Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, and Brian Minihane from Interpol discussed better information flow and links between institutions, agencies and organisations in the fight against terrorism.
After the presentations, the high-level representatives of the EU Member States discussed these issues and adopted conclusions.
On the second day of the meeting, European Commission representatives Jean-Louis de Brouwer and Frank Paul and Frontex representative Erik Berglund spoke about the interoperability of databases in the field of justice and home affairs. The common position was that legal, organisational and technical solutions needed to be found in order to improve the interoperability of information and communication systems. The need to ensure good cross-border communication between different law enforcement authorities and emergency services was emphasised. Improving interoperability of information systems will further compensate for the lifting of border controls at internal borders. It has to be noted that there are already a series of successful and effective measures and instruments replacing border control. However, developments in technologies, tools and means of communication have made it possible for them to be misused, which makes it necessary to adapt law enforcement measures accordingly.