EU vote recasts Denmark’s anti-terror measures
by Annette Birch
Published in The Capital Post on Dec. 7, http://thecapitalpost.com/vote-recasts-denmarks-antiterror-measures-p-47155.html
Just a few hours after the voting boxes closed at 8 p.m. on Dec.3, the result was clear. The Danish people had by a majority of 53 percent decided to maintain Denmark’s reservation to participate in EU police cooperation and other legal affairs. The result can inhibit Denmark’s ability to fight cross-border crimes such as terrorism, which require flexible cooperation and exchange of information across borders.
”One lesson from the Paris attacks is that there is a silo mentality – countries and sometimes organizations within countries don’t share information. And one of the great successes of Europol is that it can co-ordinate activity against organized crime across borders,” said UK cyber-crime expert and Europol advisor Professor Alan Woodward from Surrey University to SCMagazineUK.com on Dec.2.
Europol assists national authorities of member states such as Denmark by exchanging information, providing intelligence analysis and threat assessments, as well as proving member states with fast and secure capabilities for storing, searching, visualizing and linking information in databases and communication channels.
Previously, Denmark has been able to participate in the anti-terror cooperation coordinated by Europol despite its reservation to participate in police cooperation and legal affairs on a supranational level.
However, if EU members as expected in the spring 2016 decide to make Europol a supranational institution, Denmark can no longer participate as long as the reservation is in place. This has been emphasized on several occasions during the referendum campaign by the right wing party in government, The Liberal Party, as well as the two left wing parties, The Social Democratic Party and The Socialist Party.
Denmark left behind in renewed anti-terror efforts
The Danish Police has several times warned that if Denmark did not repeal the country’s reservation, it could have consequences for the Danish ability to effectively exchange and communicate across borders; a tool essential to combat international crime such as terrorism and cybercrime.
”The advantage of Europol is that they automatically ask out in all states. We ask about 100 times a day,” said Head of the Police’s investigating unit, Michael Ask, to TV2 in February 2015.
The Paris attacks has sparked a renewed European will to work together to combat terrorism. The process was already initiated in 2014, when Europol launched a project to store information about thousands of people suspected of travelling across borders to engage in terrorism. This summer it was announced that a cyber-police team from all over Europe, coordinated by Europol, would be tasked with tracking down and dismantling the Islamic State’s social media presence. Finally, the European Parliament granted Europol powers to set up new police units to counter emerging threats from terrorists on Nov. 26.
No is a not a no to Europol
While some Danish parties like the left wing party, The Unity Party, and the rightwing party, Liberal Alliance, are wholeheartedly against Europol, others argue that maintaining the reservation does not necessarily leave Denmark out of Europol.
”We should supplement it [the reservation] with a parallel agreement, so Denmark can stay in the European police cooperation. It is possible, if the government will just do the necessary ground work,” said Member of Parliament for the right wing party, Danish People’s Party, to the Danish online newspaper, Altinget, on Dec. 2.
However, the EU authorities has been more skeptical, pointing out that Denmark should not expect to be able to choose freely.
”EU is not a self-service table,” several officials in Bruxelles said to the Danish newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, on Dec. 3.
The future is uncertain
But if Denmark wants to stay in Europol, a parallel agreement is exactly what the Danish government has to try to negotiate.
”It is my impression that both parties for and against the reservation agree it would be a disaster for Denmark and the Danish police, if we have to leave Europol. Therefore, we should attempt to negotiate a solution so Denmark can stay in Europol,” said the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Andersen to Jyske Vestkysten just after the result had been announced late Dec. 3.
The Danish Prime Minister has summoned all parties in Parliament to meet on Monday Dec. 7 in order to discuss what course to take. On Friday Dec. 11, he will meet with EU Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and EU President Tusk in Brussels.