Inefficient EU counterterrorism directive avoids democratic process & threatens fundamental rights

While the stated intention of the directive – to prevent terrorism – is clearly important, the actual text is quite vague and does not appear to contain any measures to prevent terrorism that are not already covered by existing legislation.

The draft text was tabled right after, and as consequence of, the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and is supposed to serve as an update to an existing directive, which was adopted in 2002.

GUE/NGL Coordinator on the LIBE Committee, Cornelia Ernst, commented: “With this directive, the EU wants to respond to potential threats from terrorist fighters from third countries as well as within the EU. However, to reach this noble aim, again we fail to comply with the rule of law and the fundamental rights of individuals.”

The directive would enable large amounts of personal data of passengers on 'suspicious' flights to non-EU countries to be collected and checked.

“This approach will only lead to even more personal data being collected and will not help to make counterterrorism efforts more efficient,” Ernst continued.

“The text does not provide any definition of 'terrorism' and 'radicalised persons'. Therefore those vague terms can be interpreted broadly by member states when transposing or implementing this directive. They could be interpreted as including people or actions that are critical towards governments, both within and outside the EU. For example: protests by civil society, the 'Occupy movement', the toppling of dictators (such as in Sudan) or simply 'radical left' political groups or individuals.

“This directive contradicts the right to privacy and protection of one's personal data as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The new directive was rushed through the LIBE Committee in less than six months with total disregard for criticism from European civil society, GUE/NGL and the Greens/EFA.

It will not be put to a vote in the European Parliament, instead going directly into trilogue negotiations with the Council and the Commission.

Only after those closed-door negotiations will the Parliament have the chance to debate the content of the new directive. However, then it will be too late for MEPs to change it.

In addition, there was no impact assessment of existing counterterrorism instruments by the Commission.

Ernst explains: “Instead of conducting an evaluation of the instruments which are in place already, the Commission – due to 'a lack of time' – even abdicated its reponsibility to do an impact assessment.”

“The directive also has the potential to make intentions punishable as crimes – even when no actual crime has yet been committed. In other words, this directive establishes intentions as crimes on the basis of suspicions and theoretical assumptions. In doing that, we are straying from our recognised criminal justice systems.”

“The text of the directive also does not contain any measures to prevent terrorism in the long-term. We call for investment in comprehensive community-based programmes to work with those who have demonstrated interest in terrorism, as well as victims and their families.

“As a left-wing group, GUE/NGL will continue to struggle for a counterterrorism directive which is proportional, legitimate and above all, sensible.

“What we are seeing is a distorted approach to counterterrorism that is dragging the EU further down in the negative spiral of reducing fundamental rights. Not in our name!“ Ernst concludes.

GUE/NGL Press Contact:

Nikki Sullings  +33 3881 76723 / +32 483 03 55 75

Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20