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Counter terrorism ـ France and Germany want to plug EU security gap

Jun 20, 2024 | Studies & Reports

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI

How France and Germany want to plug EU security gaps at the Euro and Olympics

Euractiv – Patchy police information exchange across the EU makes it harder to protect the international sports tournaments of the summer, leaving France and Germany to rely on bilateral cooperation to plug gaps.The security situation worsened in the run-up to the European football championship in Germany and the Olympics in Paris, with threats ranging from hooliganism to Islamist terrorism and Russia’s hybrid warfare.

Already during its first week, the Euro has seen some incidents, with an attempted hammer attack in Hamburg and brawls in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the Serbia-England match.Facing this tense situation, the host countries France and Germany agreed upfront to provide on-the-ground support for each other’s police forces to maintain public order.What looks like a mere symbol is actually a measure to plug important security holes, as EU police forces still do not have ready access to police assessments and information from their European neighbours.

“General police assessments besides criminal records are difficult to share in Europe because of legal uncertainty – there are no standardised rules and data guidance as to why someone is considered dangerous,” Raphael Bossong, an EU home affairs expert at the SWP think tank, told Euractiv. Information gathered under national legal standards in one country – for example on who counts as a potential threat to public security – might be problematic in another, leaving an insufficient legal basis to make police information centrally available on a large scale, he explained.

However, at international sports tournaments, which involve cross-border traffic and threats to public security, quick access to information is vital in everyday policing.If foreign hooligans are rioting in one city and their team is playing in another city afterwards, “it’s very important to know precisely who is where,” said Herbert Reul (CDU/EPP), the interior minister of the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, where four Euro stadiums are located.

Improving the exchange of information in the EU is “key” to better protect such events, the former MEP told journalists ahead of the tournament.

“A tedious affair”

“If I had one wish, it would be that we improve the exchange of information between police forces in Europe. This is still a tedious affair,” he added.Currently, some data is available in central databases such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), and information sharing on terrorist threats also works smoothly, said Bossong.But for other information, procurement is harder and takes too long, despite attempts in the 2000s to accelerate processes through a number of treaties, dubbed ‘Prüm’ after the German town where they were signed.

“If French officers don’t want to share their information or don’t have time, German officials cannot get access and vice versa,” Bossong said.To minimise such bottlenecks, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD/S&D) and her French counterpart Gerald Darmanin (Renaissance/Renew) agreed in March to mutually provide officers to integrate into each other’s police operations this summer.

That way, people with access to national information will be readily available to share it when it is most needed, in particular at events that are likely to involve citizens from each country, such as French Euro matches.Existing joint units, which already serve as regular ‘human access points’ for information, will also be deployed to monitor Franco-German cross-border traffic, as Germany has reintroduced checks for the Euro.

“Tricks” and makeshift solutions

Germany has also set up an ‘International Police Cooperation Center’ (IPCC), where officers from several European countries exchange intelligence, which is based on bilateral contracts, the interior ministry told Euractiv.“This has never been done before and (…) cost a fortune,” Reul said.He added, however, that “if there already are joint police stations, it would be great if the French could look into the German system and Germans could look into the French system instead of using tricks”.

Legislative progress at the EU level has been slow. At the end of last term, the EU institutions passed an update to Prüm that extends data sharing to more categories and introduces a central IT system to simplify information requests.However, this goes back to a pilot project from 2020 and will only come into force by 2027.The main roadblock – greater harmonisation of standards – remains in place, Bossong concluded.

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI


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