MEPs will vote in Strasbourg this week to adopt new rules to give greater powers across all EU member states for authorities to tackle the growing threat of terrorism.
The new rules will be a decisive measure in the counter terrorism drive and support the work of the European Union’s law enforcement agency, Europol. The goal of the agency, as many may know, is to support member states in the fight against terrorism and serious organised and international crime.
As we have seen in the last year, the threat terrorist networks pose within the European Union is significant. Europol describes the threat as ‘resilient and able to quickly adapt to new opportunities.’
With this in mind its incumbent upon the European Parliament to respond to, and address the growing threat, and as legislators we are seeking to enhance the mandate of Europol so that it is fully equipped to respond even more swiftly to the rise of international criminal activity including terrorism.
The new measures will also give additional powers to existing units like the Internet Referral Unit, allowing such authorities to swiftly remove any content on websites which praise terrorist acts or encourage terrorists to join terrorist organisations.
In addition, social networking sites such as Facebook can be approached directly and asked to remove material that is used by terrorists. Europol will also be able to request details of other pages in an effort to stop the continuing spread of terrorist propaganda.
Another important area the new rules address is that of information sharing. The ability to share properly, transparently and swiftly information among member states is a significant benefit of our membership to the European Union which must not be underestimated.
While some people have raised concerns over data protection issues, the new measures address the concerns robustly by ensuring strict parliamentary scrutiny and safeguards are in place. Indeed the Civil Liberties Committee has been very clear. It stated: “MEPs have ensured that Europol’s new powers will go hand in hand with increased data protection safeguards and parliamentary scrutiny. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will be responsible for monitoring Europol’s work and there will be a clear complaints procedure under EU law for citizens.”
And Europol’s work will be overseen by a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group and will include members from both national parliaments and the European Parliament.
As the new measures address data protection issues robustly then we must respond in the toughest terms to the growing threat of terrorism, and without delay.
The rules will take effect from 1 April 2017.