France and Germany present EU internal security initiative

Germany – Fight against terrorism/European Union – Speech by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, during the joint press conference with Mr Thomas de Maizière, German Minister of the Interior (excerpts)

Paris, 23 August 2016

(Check against delivery)

(…)

For one and a half years, and at the behest of our two countries in particular, we’ve already been taking decisive steps forward at European level. (…)

This undeniable progress, of course, comes on top of the strengthening of national counter-terrorism legislation, especially in France and Germany, and the work of sharing information between intelligence services.

Thanks to the measures we’ve put in place and the work done by our police and intelligence services, whose resources we have considerably increased and which have had an extremely heavy workload over the past few months, we’re getting significant results in the war we’re waging against terrorism. As such, the number of individuals linked to terrorist networks who were arrested in France in the first six months of the year is equivalent to that for the whole of 2015. For August alone, the French Directorate-General for Internal Security arrested seven individuals, all of whom were jailed and at least three of whom were planning attacks.

Nevertheless, the threat level, the nature and range of new forms of jihadist terrorism, the migration crisis context in which it is being waged and the terrorists’ attempts to cover their tracks, as well as the new technology they use – particularly the increasingly systematic encryption of communications – compel us to take further decisions.

EU security/Franco-German initiative

This is why Thomas de Maizière and I are today presenting a new, three-pronged Franco-German initiative for internal security in Europe:

- to strengthen controls at our external borders;

- to share crucial information between member states more effectively;

- to equip our democracies with genuine tools to tackle the issue of encryption.

We’re beginning by asking the future European border control agency to organize before the end of the year a crisis simulation exercise, on the ground, at the EU’s external borders, to test the effectiveness and speed of deploying this force’s personnel. Indeed, we must swiftly increase our operational capacity to intervene.

We would subsequently like this agency to set up a training programme for combating document fraud. These border guards must also be given suitable equipment and the latest technology applications to facilitate checks on everyone entering and leaving the Schengen Area. In this framework, they will have to have access to national and European databases.

Biometrics/database sharing/European ESTA/ADEP

We also want the use of biometrics to be stepped up. Indeed, given the fraudulent use of stolen Syrian and Iraqi passports by Daesh [so-called ISIL] in particular, biometrics is the only way of really guaranteeing a person’s identity. Moreover, France, under Schengen Border Code rules, has re-established its internal border controls since 13 November 2015. As I’ve already said, we’ll maintain these controls for as long as the threat level requires it. In this context, we’ll need to make changes to the European rules on this, in order to provide more flexibility when it comes to re-establishing internal border controls in the event of a serious threat.

In order for border controls to be effective, the information on European databases must be systematically shared. It is of course essential for all the member states to feed into these databases systematically. France is one of the countries that does this the most. But this isn’t a sufficient precondition. Hence our proposal: the various databases must be interoperable, i.e. interlinked. Indeed, it’s imperative that our police and gendarmes on the ground have a single interface, simultaneously consulting every national and European database, to carry out the checks necessary to our security. We can’t allow information which is available on a database and crucial to our security not to be rapidly accessible, particularly during checks.

We’re also proposing that a so-called European ESTA – i.e. an electronic travel authorization system for people not requiring visas, before they enter European territory – to be established along the lines of the one already existing in the United States, Canada and Australia. Thomas de Maizière and I have also launched a pilot project, called ADEP, allowing criminal records to be automatically transmitted between our police forces. Six member states – Finland, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, France and Germany – are already part of this project. Today we’re asking for the project, which works well, to be extended to all the EU member states.

Still on the subject of information exchange, in January we supported the establishment of Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre. This body must be strengthened. France and Germany are ready to contribute to this together. The Fraternity Task Force set up by France and Belgium following the November [2015] attacks was in fact a great help to national [intelligence] services. We must institutionalize and replicate this kind of cooperation at European level.

Encryption of communication/cybercrime/RAN/IRU

Finally, I come to the third area: the encryption of communication used by terrorists.

Let’s be clear, to avoid any pointless arguments: there’s never, of course, been any question of undermining the principle of encrypting exchanges: it enables communications – including by governments – to be made secure. For example, it allows financial transactions to be protected on a daily basis.

What we are saying, however, is that it must be possible for the increasingly systematic exchanges conducted via certain apps, such as Telegram, to be identified in the framework of judicial proceedings – I stress this point – and used as evidence by the investigation services and judges.

At national level, thanks to excellent dialogue with Internet stakeholders, the services’ efforts to gain access to certain data is now swifter and more effective. However, it’s not always possible, and the level of cooperation isn’t the same depending on the operators – I’m thinking particularly of the aforementioned app, for which the states have no contact.

So today Thomas de Maizière and I are proposing that the European Commission consider the possibility of legislation to harmonize the rights and obligations of all operators offering telecommunications or Internet products or services in the European Union, whether legally based in Europe or not.

If such legislation were adopted, it would enable us, at European level, to impose obligations on operators that prove uncooperative, particularly in order to remove illicit content or decrypt messages, solely in the framework of judicial investigations.

Concurrently, at international level, we’re calling for the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime to be signed and ratified. Indeed, France believes that Article 18 of the convention may provide a legal basis for formal requests by the relevant authorities of a country that is party to the convention, addressed to a service provider which is physically or legally domiciled abroad but provides services on that country’s territory.

Moreover, regarding cooperation with operators, it’s necessary to harmonize the different member states’ practices, particularly the process of handling of requests passed on to operators by the security services for the removal of terrorist propaganda content, as we’ve been doing effectively in France for more than a year now thanks to the permanent contact group I’ve set up; I was talking about this earlier in relation to Twitter. Finally, to step up the fight against radicalization, particularly on the Internet, we’re proposing to strengthen RAN [Radicalization Awareness Network], a Europe-wide network bringing together local players and professionals in which France plays an active role.

At European level, within Europol, an Internet Referral Unit (IRU) commanded by a French police officer has been operational for a year. Its action has enabled more than 10,000 items of online content inciting people to terrorism and hatred to be removed. This unit must be strengthened, and we’re committing to this with Germany, to make it a real European centre of expertise.

We’d like these proposals, put forward today by Germany and France, to be discussed at the summit of 27 heads of state and government, to be held in Bratislava on 16 September.

I’m delighted that a European commissioner, specifically responsible for domestic security issues and the fight against terrorism, Julian King, has been appointed. Once again, because security is today, legitimately, the main concern of European citizens, Europe must be up to the task./.

Published on 30/08/2016

top of the page