MEP calls for impact assessment of EU counter-terrorism policies

MEP Sophie In’t Veld called for a thorough evaluation of EU counter-terrorism policies at a recent meeting of the European Parliament. She criticized in particular “costly high-tech surveillance and data gathering programmes” .

“The European Parliament has been constantly calling for a thorough evaluation of EU counter-terrorism measures. Why is it that in other areas, such as transport or regional policy, it is normal to evaluate results of the policy, but in counter-terrorism everything remains secret?” Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in’t Veld said to EU Observer.

“It is not only state budgets that are affected, considerable costs and administrative burdens are also put on airlines, banks, telecommunication companies – who all have legal requirements to comply with in terms of counter-terrorism policies. What we want to know is if all this is really necessary,” she explains.

 

As a result, MEPs are likely to call for the establishment of an independent panel of experts ranging from the security world to budget and civil liberties NGOs, so as to look into the “overall cost” of counter-terrorism. In a working document she states:

The evaluation should provide a clear analysis of input and output of the counter-terrorism policies in Europe in the past decade. It should set out clearly the results of the policies, in terms of increased security in Europe, trends in terrorist activity in response to counterterrorism policies, and facts and figures relating to terrorist activity (attacks succeeded, failed, prevented) and counter-terrorism activity (arrests and convictions). The independent study must clearly distinguish between results in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution. The evaluation must also identify where further law enforcement powers are needed or inversely where powers granted are excessive and go beyond what is necessary.

A similar exercise should be carried out for Member States counter-terrorism policies, with a particular focus on interaction with EU policies, overlap and gaps. An evaluation that does not include the national counter-terrorism policies does not give a realistic picture of the situation. Member States must better cooperate with the evaluation of EU policies and provide their input within the given deadlines, as for example for the data retention directive.

 

Additionally, In’t Veld criticizes the lack of democratic scrutiny over the EU’s counter-terrorism policies

Recommendation 6: The European Commission must carry out a study to establish if counter-terrorism policies are subject to effective democratic scrutiny, including at least the following issues:

  • For each measure it must be established if either national parliaments or the European Parliament had full rights and means of scrutiny, such as access to information,sufficient time for a thorough procedure, and rights to modify the proposals; the evaluation must include an overview of the legal basis used for each policy measure;
  • All existing measures to be subjected to a retrospective proportionality test;
  • Provide an overview of classification of documents, and trends in the use of classification, numbers and trends in access granted or denied to documents relating to counter-terrorism policies, as well as the documents made available to Parliament, to be consulted in a secure room;
  • An overview of the use made of external consultants and (independent) expertise, in areas such as (international) law, data protection and civil liberties, security in the context of European counter-terrorism policies;
  • An overview of the instruments for democratic scrutiny of cross border cooperation of intelligence agencies, and more specifically of SitCen, the Watch-Keeping Capability, the Crisis Room, the Council’s Clearing House, and COSI;
  • An overview of measures adopted by third countries with extraterritorial effect in the EU, such as the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which are not subject to scrutiny by any parliament in the EU;
  • An overview of measures agreed in international governmental and non-governmental bodies (United Nations, ICAO, IATA), and existing instruments for democratic scrutiny;
  • An overview of non legislative EU (funded) activities, such as research programmes, and how they are subject to democratic scrutiny.

An earlier evaluation carried out by the European Commission in July 2010 was labelled as “extremely modest” by the Dutch politician because no results were included in the document.

The Commission Communication provides information on certain measures and policies. However, this list is far from complete, it does not sufficiently cover measures taken by DGs other than JLS (such as TRAN or MARKT), nor does it give a clear idea how the measures interact, where there is overlap or – on the contrary – gaps. The Commission should also map out which measures have objectives other than counter-terrorism, or where further objectives were added to the initial purpose of counter-terrorism (mission creep and function creep) such as law enforcement, immigration policies, public health, or public order.

In its analysis, the European Commission speaks of €745 million set aside “to support policies to counter terrorism and organised crime”, but the real figures if the private sector and national governments are taken into account rises much higher than that. Under EU’s research programme, for instance, €1.4 billion are earmarked solely for security research. MEP In’t Veld recommends that the Commission: produces, before July 2011, a full and detailed report on all EU funds used for counter-terrorism purposes, directly or indirectly, including in any case the following items:

  • Expenditure specifically labelled as counter-terrorism measures
  • Expenditure for policies that include counter-terrorism activities
  • Expenditure for EU staff and agencies carrying out counter-terrorism tasks
  • Expenditure for counter-terrorism related IT systems and databases
  • Expenditure for research projects (co) funded by the EU, in the area of counterterrorism or related areas
  • Expenditure for protection of fundamental rights and data protection in the context of counter-terrorism
  • Expenditure for strengthening democracy and the rule of law
  • An analysis of the development of the above EU Budget lines since 2001

 

“It is fair that security firms try to make a profit out of it, but we should be informed and aware of how the taxpayer’s money is spent,” Ms in’t Veld says.

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