Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY (14469/1/05)

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Secretary of State, Home Office

  Sub-Committee F (Home Affairs) of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union considered this document at a meeting on 1 February.

  We agree that, in a matter of this importance, it is regrettable that the document was not deposited for scrutiny, with an Explanatory Memorandum, in time for it to be considered before its adoption. We also doubt whether an Explanatory Memorandum sent to us "in early December as intended" would have been of any value given that, as you say, the Strategy was agreed at the JHA Council on 1-2 December, and thereafter was in practice not susceptible of amendment.

  Since the Strategy has now been adopted, the question of clearance from scrutiny does not arise. We hope however you will have put in place arrangements to make sure, not just that documents are deposited for scrutiny, but that they are deposited in time to give the Committee a realistic opportunity of expressing its views to Ministers in advance of any agreement on their content.

2 February 2006

Letter from Tony McNulty MP, Minister of State, Home Office to the Chairman

  I attach the revised EU Action Plan on Terrorism (not printed) for your consideration. As you will remember, during the UK Presidency we reorganised it into four headings—Prevent, Protect, Prosecute (which now replaces what was previously Pursue) and Respond. The plan measures progress made against objectives to date, and is a useful framework for EU CT work.

  There are two annexes to this version. The first indicates progress on legislative measures, including international Treaties and Conventions, as at February. The second is a list of CT achievements since 2001. Neither of these are contentious and they are helpful reference documents.

  Also attached for Committees' information are: the EU Counter Terrorism Co-ordinator's (Mr. Gijs De Vries) 6-monthly report on implementation of the Action Plan from May 19; an updated list of progress on legislative measures, also done in May; and an update from Mr. De Vries on Terrorist Financing work from June (not printed).

  This detailed assessment of the various stands of EU CT work is welcome, and puts pressure on Member States to take action. We fully support the effective implementation of the Action Plan and will work closely with the Finnish and German Presidencies to help resolve any areas of difficulty. We are concerned not to lose the momentum that we gave EU CT work during our Presidency, and the revision of the Action Plan and Co-ordinator's report are important levers in ensuring progress. Some important developments in the revised Action Plan are identified below, together with areas of concern for the UK.

  As the material is Restricted, the Action Plan has been sent under cover of this letter rather than accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum.

PREVENT

  The Prevent strand focuses principally on two aims: preventing the radicalisation and recruitment of EU citizens, and preventing terrorists from financing their activities.

    —  Recent reports have included an assessment of the impact of the July 7 bomb attacks on Muslim communities within the EU.

    —  A joint strategy paper has been issued on terrorist financing and all Member States have now ratified the 1999 UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. A number of other legislative measures have also been introduced, strengthening the EU's approach to tackling the financing of terrorist organisations.

  NB the dossiers on terrorist financing and on limiting terrorist access to weapons and explosives have been moved from the Prosecute to the Prevent strand.

UK POSITION

  Our view is that the Prevent strand is progressing along the right lines, albeit somewhat slowly. There is some Commission funding allocated to this work. For example they are conducting polls of Member States' minority communities; we await the results with interest. The Austrian Presidency made some progress on the media communications strategy, which will go to GAERC on 17 July for endorsement and to JHA Council on 24 July for final sign off. The Finnish Presidency has proposed a friends of the presidency sub-group of media experts to take forward implementation, which we will support. Separately, we will question the unhelpful inclusion of financing and access to material in this section, as they would normally fall under `Prosecute'.

PROTECT

  Under the Protect strand, the EU addresses the need to protect its citizens, infrastructure and borders, and makes regular assessment of the threat to each.

    —  Two Framework Decisions have been adopted on the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP), and discussions continue.

    —  The EU has also adopted a number of other legislative measures to counter the terrorist threat to our borders as well as to our transport networks and other civilian and military targets. The Action Plan also details developments in EC/US collaboration on the protection of citizens and infrastructure.

  The funding of technological and medical research is also addressed in this strand.

UK POSITION

  Progress on the EPCIP, which represents the main programme under the Protect strand, has been slow. A Green Paper was published in January and the subsequent consultation phase is now complete. The UK supports the programme but feels that it should be limited to cross-border infrastructure, focusing on research and best practice which raises the CIP capability of Member States without interfering in national security matters. The Commission is now expected to put forward their proposal in September-October.

PROSECUTE

  Within this strand, the EU addresses a number of areas including the legal framework for fighting terrorism, sustaining international consensus on fighting terrorism and enhancing judicial and law enforcement co-operation.

    —  The peer evaluations are now complete. Member States have been reporting back to the Terrorism Working Group (TWG) as to how they have responded to the recommendations made. Furthermore, the implementation of the Framework Decision on combating terrorism has now been completed by 22 Member States. The Commission will report back on its implementation by the end of 2006.

    —  The EU has adopted a number of legislative measures to assist in both judicial and police co-operation, including the Council Decision to establish Eurojust.

    —  Thematic SitCen threat assessments have continued to be used as the basis for informing EU policy making.

UK POSITION

  The Austrians have made good progress in taking forward implementation of the peer evaluations, and have completed the assessment of the 15 "old" Member States. Once Finland has heard from the 10 accession states (and Bulgaria and Romania), the final report will need to capture best practice and remaining vulnerabilities, as well as possible options for next steps under the German Presidency. We also hope that the recommendations will form a basis for bilateral lobbying on capabilities (from eg Mr. De Vries) and Commission funding to address vulnerabilities in Member States.

  It is the UK's view that the Austrian Presidency has been unfocused on the issue of the EU's provision of technical assistance to third countries, which also falls under "Prosecute". The UK will work with the Finnish and German Presidencies to encourage a more flexible approach to third country assistance, in particular seeking to focus the EU on countries that HMG considers to be priorities.

RESPOND

  Under the Respond strand, the EU aims to strengthen its ability to react effectively to a terrorist attack, and to enhance its crisis and consequence management.

    —  A Council Decision and a Commission decision on the Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident have been adopted.

    —  In terms of civilian assistance, the EU has made further progress on implementing the Solidarity programme and the guidance on the threat of biological and chemical agents. Work continues to be done on military databases.

  The EU recognises that there is a need to work further to assist the victims of terrorism; both those directly affected by a terrorist attack and those who may be discriminated against as a result of an attack. These have been addressed by legislative measures adopted during the Austrian Presidency.

UK POSITION

  The Barnier report on EU crisis management, in particular on closer consular co-operation, was not favourable to the UK. However, the draft language in the June Council Conclusions was better and the Finns are planning to hold bi-laterals with Member States who had difficulties with the work, which is encouraging.

  We will of course keep the Committees abreast of any further developments in regard to the EU Action Plan on combating terrorism. We shall endeavour to work with the Presidency and partners to ensure continued progress on CT measures, and that Commission resources are devoted to supporting Member States' activities in the most effective manner.

17 July 2006



 
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