Military intelligence for Europol
The EU plans to strengthen the linkages between its internal and external security structures. In future, military information will increasingly be used in combating terrorism and organised crime. Cooperation is being tested first in the field of migration.
The European Union is planning the establishment of „Crime Information Cells“ (CIC) for the exchange of data between the police, military and secret services. The intention of the players involved is to reinforce the “external dimension of internal security”. The “Crime Information Cells” would strengthen linkages between civil and military EU missions. This would apply to Common Security and Defence Policy missions (CSDP) and the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), which fall within the remit of the European External Action Service or European Commission.
The proposal of the interior and defence ministers is based on the Malta Declaration of 3 February 2017, along with the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of 19 June 2017, in which closer cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and migration is called for.
An initial pilot project for a „Crime Information Cell“ could be carried out in the framework of the EUNAVFOR MED military mission in the Mediterranean. The plan is for ten law-enforcement officials to be stationed on the Italian aircraft carrier which also hosts the EUNAVFOR MED force headquarters. The military would also receive information from the field of Justice and Home Affairs.
The mandate for the military mission is inappropriate
Yet it remains unclear how the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED is to be reconciled with the planned “Crime Information Cell”. The core mandate of the military mission is “combatting criminal networks of people smugglers” off the Libyan coast. EUNAVFOR MED was retrospectively mandated with two “support missions”: in several measures, the Libyan coastguard and navy are being trained to patrol maritime borders. In line with two UN Security Council resolutions, EUNAVFOR MED is also tasked with monitoring the implementation of the UN arms embargo against Libya. Yet no legal basis exists for it to be involved in counter-terrorism or law enforcement.
A further problem is the classification of the data exchanged. In the military field, information is often classified as Secret or Top Secret, which means that law-enforcement authorities are unable to access it. In order to use this information in a “Crime Information Cell”, this information would therefore have to be given a lower classification. This information would then subsequently be available at the level of the Member States.
However, it is not permissible in all EU states to use information from military sources for law enforcement purposes. For this reason, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) withdrew from a similar project for civil-military exchange of data in 2011.
A new department is being set up at Europol
The police agency Europol in The Hague is to play a key role in the new civil-military cooperation. Europol is setting up a Migrant Smuggling Information Clearing House to receive and process military intelligence data. This clearing house is part of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre at Europol.
Alongside the military mission EUNAVFOR MED, the paramilitary EUROGENDFOR, which is not part of the European Union, is also to participate in this exchange of information. According to the Commission, five EU Member States, including Germany, along with Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK, are already on board. Additionally, the EU border agency Frontex, together with Interpol, plan to be involved.
Deliberations are currently underway at the level of the EU Council working groups on the exact form that the “Crime Information Cells” are to take, as well as on a pilot project. Following successful implementation in EUNAVFOR MED and the processing of intelligence data by Europol, the model could also be used for other missions. Yet no legal framework exists for this. It is only in the EUNAVFOR context that personal data can be collected for the purposes of threat prevention or for police investigations. A provision of this kind would therefore first have to be created for the other EU missions.