EU crisis management agency

The multiple terrorist attacks on London last Thursday came just as the European Union is forming a single crisis management agency. Until quite recently, security issues in the EU centered on protecting internal borders and setting up joint defense mechanisms to deal with external threats. The transformation of international terrorism in recent years, the expansion of the terrorist threat in terms of both methods and the extent of losses, and the two major attacks within Europe – on Madrid and London – have highlighted the need to reexamine priorities. The new agency will have the task of evaluating threats and managing the fallout of terrorist attacks and other natural or technological disasters. In 2004, the European Council informed the European Parliament of the need for a wide-ranging EU approach to deterring and dealing with terrorist attacks. It asked for «a crisis management agreement to be implemented by July 1, 2006 at the latest and covering the following issues: further evaluation of the capacity of member states, creation of reserves, joint exercises and operational plans for managing non-military crises.» The emphasis was to be on appropriate communication among leaders in cases of crisis, the role of Europol, the creation of a legally authorized warning mechanism, and the establishment of a European program to protect vital infrastructure. Last May the European Parliament voted unanimously in favor of Euro Deputy Stavros Lambrinidis’s four-step proposal for protecting vital infrastructure. – Vital infrastructure (power networks, communications, transport and information systems) whose destruction would have serious consequences on the health, security and prosperity of the public) must be designated. Their vulnerability and the cross-border consequences of crises must be evaluated and plans made for an adequate response to an attack or disaster. – A common European program (EPCIP), funded by member states and based on close cooperation among member states and the private and public sector, will protect vital infrastructure. – The exchange of information between states is essential for the infrastructure protection program to function. Its absence and the lack of a body to collect and evaluate data is deemed to be a serious shortcoming in the EU. – The system of collecting information and analyzing threats must work in cooperation with the European Data Protection Supervisor and national data protection agencies so as to ensure confidentiality and that the rights of individuals are not abused. The issue of protecting individual rights has proved to be a major problem in discussions about drafting a joint EU policy on terrorism. Greece has come under criticism for its use of surveillance cameras. The practice of keeping records of telephone conversations – who collects the material, who has access to it and how long it is kept – is also controversial. And there is talk of asking the United States to evaluate material it collected on European citizens following the September 11 attacks. The EU is also investigating the causes of terrorism, with a study into why some people become terrorists due for completion within the next few months. The researchers are looking at issues such as the integration of migrants and equal opportunities in education and work. The attacks on London will raise all these issues again and put them in a different light because, once again, the response was on a national level, with offers of help being made on a bilateral basis in the absence of an overriding mechanism. And there is the question of individual rights, which are in danger of being sidelined in the face of rising pressure for tough measures.

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