Friday, June 21

Extremists free to travel to UK because EU states cannot agree on the definition of a foreign fighter



Police officers take part in a security exercise at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium, Villeneuve d’Ascq, northern France Jihadi terrorists are not being blacklisted on a European Union terrorist database and could be left free to travel to Britain because members states cannot agree on the definition of a foreign fighter, an internal EU report has revealed.

A document written by the Dutch government, the current President of the EU Council, said an “absence of common standards” between EU countries which “diminishes the impact of information sharing” on a pan-EU terror watch list.

The loophole will add further pressure on the Government to review border security. This week The Telegraph launched a campaign to highlight weaknesses in border security.

In the restricted 10-page document, the Dutch voiced their “concern” over the “lack of common criteria defining foreign fighters in the member states” and suggested a 12 point checklist to other member states.

The paper dated April 5 – said:  The lack of common criteria defining foreign fighters in the Member States is a concern, especially with regards to the upload of alerts and action by the end user on a hit.

Differences in national procedures for adding ‘terrorism-related activity’ as a type of offence make it difficult to establish any clear typology.

In order to provide clear expectations of actions to be taken and necessary response, indicative criteria should be drafted regarding exchange and sharing of information on individuals involved in travelling to and from jihadi areas of conflict.

It resolved to require other member states to agree to enter the details of a jihadi on a pan-EU database if one of 12 criteria applies, such as whether they have fought in or visited conflict zones.

The report, published on the Statewatch’s website, warned that “absence of common standards between member states diminishes the impact of information sharing and follow-up actions” against the extremists.

Separately, it emerged that terrorists are able to slip into Britain because it is not “mandatory” for member states to enter the details of people who have been expelled or halted at the border onto the EU watchlist known as SIS.

The warnings came from the British and French governments in another EU Council restricted memorandum, dated March 8.

It said: “The absence of any requirement to record expulsion or removal decisions on SIS creates a gap that terrorists and criminals can exploit.”

The loophole means that an extremist could have been denied entry into one country – such as Spain – because they show signs of being a jihadist.

But if that intelligence is not logged on the system, then they could slip into Britain or another EU states as border guards would be unaware of their history.

Separately, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU bureaucrat in charge of security among member states, admitted that terrorists are missing from crucial databases relied on by British security services.

Speaking after an EU interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg attended by Theresa May, the Home Secretary on Thursday, he said the EU must overhaul its intelligence sharing and become a security union in the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Mr Avramopoulos, the EU home affairs commissioner, said: The security of one member state is the security of us all. Fragmentation of policies, legislation and actions make us vulnerable.

Even though we have made important progress it is even more important that we actually implement and work closer together, and more importantly trust each other.

Internal security is a national competence – but terrorism is not limited to national borders.

We need a shift of mindset. We need to improve information sharing as we have seen in the context of the horrible terrorist attacks of the last month.

He warned that there are gaps in the EU’s terrorist computers – with missing data and “fragmentation” of databases that leave police unable to detect terrorists.

Member states have to consistently and comprehensively feed all databases. I have explicitly called on member states today to send full data on Foreign Terrorist Fighters to Europol.

To be useful, our data systems must be complementary searchable inter-operable and inter-connected with one single click.

We are in favour of gradually developing a single search interface to facilitate the job of law enforcement authorities.

This is the architecture we need to overcome fragmentation that makes us vulnerable.

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, admitted there were different national variations in the definition of a foreign fighter.

But he played down the risks, saying: A uniform definition would be helpful but it doesn’t have much practical impact.

Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP who sits on the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This is deeply worrying and ridiculous state of affairs.

We are constantly being told that membership of the EU is essential to preserve our security in these challenging times, yet if EU countries cannot take decisive action on something as vital as this, which could seriously undermine our ability to act together effectively against known terrorists, who would destroy our people and our way of life, then it really does not inspire confidence in the EU’s ability to take effective action to keep us all safe.

Whilst EU bureaucrats sit round a table, in scenes worthy of the Judaean People’s Front in Monty Python’s Life of Brain, wasting valuable time arguing about the niceties and subtle differences in what constitutes a freedom fighter, at least we can trust UK security forces to be getting out there, proactively searching and identifying those who would do us harm, and ensuring our security.