European Union to deepen its strategic relationship with the Horn of Africa

The Council has approved a series of conclusions affirming the EU’s commitment to give new impetus to its partnership with the Horn of Africa and establish a new strategy for the region.

The EU’s geostrategic priority in this north-eastern region of Africa has undergone unprecedented developments in recent years and is now at a crossroads.

With this new strategy, the EU intends to further strengthen and deepen its strategic relationship and partnership with the Horn of Africa and its countries, notably with a view to reducing instability and promoting democracy and sustainable growth.

The strategy aims to reinforce a joint approach to democracy and regional peace and security, revitalising multilateralism and the rules-based international order, strengthening commitment to social and human development and boosting post-COVID socio-economic recovery and trade and regional integration.  The strategy also aims to strengthen the partnership with the broader region, notably the Red Sea, the Western Indian Ocean and the Nile. Among the main conclusions are the following:

1. The Horn of Africa is a strategically important region, with which Europe has long-standing political and economic ties.

2. The Council is establishing a new EU strategy, in line with the EU’s overall approach to Africa, to give new impetus to the relationship and sustain the EU’s political, security and economic interests.

3. The region has undergone important developments over the last decade and is increasingly witnessing shifting regional dynamics.

4. Demographic changes, urbanisation, digitisation and the emergence of new markets provide important opportunities. Yet, the region is affected by the dire effects of climate change and more frequent natural disasters. Governance challenges need to be overcome to address persistent poverty, socio-economic inequalities, difficult access to basic services and lack of decent job opportunities, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Beyond its strong political, economic and trade relations, the EU is a major, long-standing and reliable partner for peace, sustainable development and humanitarian assistance.

6. Ownership and commitment from regional, national and local authorities are necessary for the concrete, sustainable and long-term development of the region.

7. The EU strategy is based on the continued promotion and respect of human rights, gender equality, democracy, the rule of law and humanitarian principles, which will remain at the centre of all EU action.

8. The EU will strengthen its support for peace and security. Despite positive political developments, fragility and insecurity persist with destabilising effects on the whole region. Tensions within and between countries of the region are increasingly worrying and illustrate the need for an effective, multilateral approach to collective security, dialogue and confidence-building. The EU will keep working with the African Union (AU) and with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The EU is ready to work with the leaders of IGAD to assist them in further building IGAD’s capacity and making it a more effective multilateral body, fostering trust among the countries of the region.

9. While the region must take responsibility for its own peace and security, the EU, jointly with international partners, will continue to support, including through its missions and operations, the build-up of regional security capacities, such as African peace support operations and other security arrangements responding to all security threats, including at sea.

10. The EU will continue supporting maritime security, using naval diplomacy as a tool to encourage cooperation and synergies amongst regional actors. In this regard, the mandate of EUNAVFOR – Somalia Operation ATALANTA, a key maritime actor in the region, has been revised and further extended to support EU engagement across the Southern Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean. While its core task remains to deter, prevent and repress piracy, the operation will also contribute to fighting other maritime crimes and illegal activities.

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The fight against organised crime: the European Council sets out 10 priorities for the next 4 years

The Council has adopted a series of conclusions setting the 2022-2025 EU priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime through the European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT). Within the EMPACT framework, EU member states, law enforcement agencies and other actors will work closely together to address these key criminal threats, using tools such as law enforcement training and joint operational actions to dismantle criminal networks, their structures and business models.

On the basis of the 2021 EU serious and organised crime threat assessment, presented by Europol, member states have identified 10 crime priorities:

1. High-risk criminal networks: To identify and disrupt high-risk criminal networks active in the EU, with special emphasis on those using corruption, violence, firearms and money laundering through parallel underground financial systems.

2. Cyber-attacks: To target criminal offenders orchestrating cyber-attacks, particularly those offering specialised criminal services online.

3. Trafficking in human beings: To disrupt criminal networks engaged in trafficking in human beings, with special focus on those who exploit minors, those who use or threaten violence against victims and their families and those who recruit and advertise victims online.

4. Child sexual exploitation: To combat child abuse online and offline, including the production and dissemination of child abuse material as well as online child sexual exploitation.

5. Migrant smuggling: To fight against criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling, in particular those providing facilitation services along the main migratory routes.

6. Drug trafficking: To identify and target the criminal networks involved in drug trafficking, including trafficking and distribution of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances.

7. Fraud, economic and financial crimes: To target criminals orchestrating fraud, economic and financial crimes, online fraud schemes, excise fraud, intellectual property crime, counterfeiting of goods and currencies, criminal finances and money laundering.

8. Organised property crime: To disrupt criminal networks involved in organised property crime, with particular focus on organised burglaries, theft, motor vehicle crime and the illegal trade in cultural goods.

9. Environmental crime: To combat criminal networks involved in all forms of environmental crime and in particular those with a capability to infiltrate legal business structures or set up their own companies to facilitate their crimes.

10. Firearms trafficking: To target criminals involved in the illicit trafficking, distribution and use of firearms.

In addition to these priorities, the production and provision of fraudulent and false documents will be addressed as a common horizontal strategic goal, since it is a key enabler for many crimes.

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EU to move forward on common security and defence

The Council today approved conclusions affirming its determination to move forward on implementing the EU’s security and defence agenda, enabling the EU to take more responsibility for its own security.

In line with its Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, the Council calls for the EU to pursue a more strategic course of action and to increase its capacity to act autonomously. The EU should promote its interests and values and be able to tackle global security threats and challenges.

Against this background, an ambitious Strategic Compass will enhance and guide the implementation of the level of ambition on security and defence. The Council, therefore, calls on the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to present a first draft of the Strategic Compass for discussion at the Council meeting in November 2021.

The Council calls for further work to enhance the EU’s capacity to undertake CSDP missions and operations across the whole spectrum of different crisis management tasks. The Council also encourages further reflection on a timely and efficient decision-making process, possibly using Article 44 of the TEU. More work should be done on ways to incentivise member states to improve force generation and provide sufficient means and personnel for CSDP missions and operations.

The conclusions underline the importance of strengthening EU defence initiatives, like the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), and other initiatives such as the Action Plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries, while ensuring coherence in the use of the various tools.

The need to further strengthen the EU’s resilience and ability to counter hybrid threats is also strongly emphasised.

A strong EU in terms of security and defence will bring tangible benefits to transatlantic and global cooperation. The Council reaffirms the centrality of international partnerships with multilateral organisations such as the UN and NATO, in line with the statement of the members of the European Council of 26 February 2021.

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Cyber-attacks: Council prolongs framework for sanctions for another year

The Council has decided to prolong the framework for restrictive measures against cyber-attacks threatening the EU or its Member States for another year, until 18 May 2022.

This framework allows the EU to impose targeted restrictive measures on persons or entities involved in cyber-attacks that cause a significant impact and constitute an external threat to the EU or its Member States.

Restrictive measures can also be imposed in response to cyber-attacks against third states or international organisations where such measures are considered necessary to achieve the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Sanctions currently apply to eight individuals and four entities and include an asset freeze and a travel ban. Additionally, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

This latest prolongation is part of the EU’s scale-up of its resilience and its ability to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to cyber threats and malicious cyber activities in order to safeguard European security and interests.

In June 2017, the EU stepped up its response by establishing a Framework for a joint EU diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities (the “cyber diplomacy toolbox”).

The framework allows the EU and its Member States to use all CFSP measures, including restrictive measures if necessary, to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to malicious cyber activities targeting the integrity and security of the EU and its Member states. The EU remains committed to a global, open, stable, peaceful and secure cyberspace and, therefore, reiterates the need to strengthen international cooperation in order to foster rules-based order in this area.

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Europe seeks to limit the use of artificial intelligence in society

The use of facial recognition for surveillance, or algorithms that manipulate human behaviour, will be banned under proposed EU regulations on artificial intelligence.

The wide-ranging proposals, which were leaked ahead of their official publication, also promised tough new rules for what they deem high-risk AI. That includes algorithms used by the police and in recruitment.

Experts said the rules were vague and contained loopholes. The use of AI in the military is exempt, as are systems used by authorities in order to safeguard public security.

The suggested list of banned AI systems includes:

• Those designed or used in a manner that manipulates human behaviour, opinions or decisions, causing a person to behave, form an opinion or make a decision to their detriment.

• AI systems used for indiscriminate surveillance applied in a generalised manner.

• AI systems used for social scoring.

• Those that exploit information or predictions or a person or group of persons to target their vulnerabilities.

For AI deemed to be high risk, member states would have to apply far more oversight, including the need to appoint assessment bodies to test, certify and inspect these systems.

And any companies that develop prohibited services, or fail to supply correct information about them, could face fines of up to 4% of their global revenue.

High-risk examples of AI include:

• Systems which establish priority in the dispatching of emergency services

• Systems determining access to or assigning people to educational institutes

• Recruitment algorithms

• Those that evaluate creditworthiness

• Those for making individual risk assessments

Crime-predicting algorithms

As well as requiring that new AI systems have human oversight, the EC is also proposing that high-risk AI systems have a so-called switch, which could either be a stop button or some other procedure to instantly turn the system off if needed.

With this legislation, the EC has had to walk a difficult line between ensuring AI is used as what it calls a ‘tool’ to increase human well-being, and also ensuring it doesn’t stop EU countries competing with the US and China over technological innovations.

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Operation Pandora: over 56,400 cultural items confiscated and 67 arrests

Despite the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Pandora, which combats the illegal trafficking of cultural items, enjoyed its most successful year to date in 2020, with over 56,400 cultural items confiscated. These objects included archaeological remains, furniture, coins, paintings, musical instruments and sculptures.

Pandora V took place between 1 June and 31 October 2020, with the participation of the Customs and police authorities of 31 different countries.

During the operational phase the authorities conducted tens of thousands of checks not only at various airports, ports and border crossings, but also in auction houses, museums and private houses. As a result, over 300 investigations were opened and 67 individuals were arrested.

Given the global nature of these crimes, operational coordination units working on a 24/7 basis were created by Europol, on the one hand, and by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and INTERPOL, on the other, so as to promote the exchanging of information and to transmit alerts and warnings and carry out investigations in various national and international databases.

This operation was directed by the Spanish Civil Guard with internationally coordinated support from Europol, INTERPOL and the WCO. Pandora V was carried out within the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).

Noteworthy operational data relating to the Pandora V operation

• A total of 27,300 archaeological remains were seized as a result of a single operation undertaken by the French Customs authorities. The suspect arrested now faces a prison sentence and a fine of several hundred thousand euros.

• During investigations on the Internet, Swedish police identified a popular work of art stolen in Sweden in 2019. During the same online auction, the police discovered a pair of 18th-century candelabra stolen from a Swedish church 8 years ago.

• The Italian Carabinieri reported over 2,700 cultural items confiscated, including ceramics, archaeological items, works of art and books for a value of 1,115,000 euros.

• The Greek police carried out 34 arrests and recovered a total of 6,757 antiques, including ceramic and marble artefacts, together with 6,452 coins, of which 5,333 were recovered in one single investigation. In one case, two Greek citizens were arrested for trying to sell 6 antiques made of marble and earthenware for 150,000 euros.

A total of 50 metal detectors were seized, of which 6 were seized directly from archaeological sites.

Europol, as the joint coordinator of this investigation, played a key role in carrying out the entire operation, facilitating the exchange of information and providing analytical and operational support. The WCO also assisted in the exchanging of intelligence between different agencies through a special user group created on its CENComm communications platform.

INTERPOL provided the connection between the participating countries in Western Europe and the Balkans, facilitating the exchanging of information through its system of secure communications.  An expert analyst provided support for the entire operation by checking the searches on the INTERPOL database of stolen works of art in order to locate and identify the stolen articles.

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A new agenda for the Mediterranean

The European Council has approved a series of conclusions that underline the determination of the European Union to renew and consolidate its strategic cooperation with the countries of the Southern Shore of the Mediterranean. The aim is to face together common challenges, to take advantage of shared opportunities and to release the region’s economic potential for the benefit of its population.

To stimulate a long-term and sustainable socio-economic recovery and the creation of employment on the southern shores of the Mediterranean is a joint priority and forms the innovative cornerstone of this new Mediterranean agenda. By working together, the EU and its partners on the Southern Shore can turn climatic and environmental challenges and digital transformation into great opportunities for sustainable development, contributing to a green transition that is both fair and inclusive. The EU will use all the instruments at its disposal, including the NDICI-Global Europe initiative and the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+), and will collaborate with financial institutions to achieve this objective, paying special attention to the human dimension and to creating opportunities for young people.

Good governance, the promotion and protection of human rights and basic freedoms, democratic institutions and the rule of law are also considered as essential for long-term stability, security and the sustainable development of the region. The EU will intensify its commitment to these issues and will renew its efforts in terms both of the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and of cooperation concerning questions of security, migration and the degree of preparation and capacity of response of countries’ national health systems.

The EU intends to strengthen political dialogue throughout the Mediterranean by establishing annual meetings of the foreign affairs ministers of the EU Member States and those of the partner countries of the Southern Shore, with a view to monitoring progress in the implementation of the new Mediterranean agenda.

The main conclusions reached included the following:

1. A Southern Shore that is democratic, more stable, more ecologically aware and more prosperous is a shared strategic priority and essential interest both for the EU and for its Southern Shore partners. Global and regional challenges have increased and have highlighted our interdependence. It is only through strong action in a spirit of collaboration and co-ownership that we will be able to meet the objectives first set 25 years ago in Barcelona in order to bring peace, stability and prosperity for the people of the Mediterranean region.

2. Remembering the conclusions of the European Council’s December 2020 meeting and the European Council members’ declaration of 26 February 2021, the Council reaffirms its determination to renew and consolidate even further the EU’s strategic cooperation with its Southern Shore partners in order to face our common challenges, to take advantage of our shared opportunities and to release the full potential of our shared region. It undertakes to do so in conjunction with its partner countries, on the basis of the joint deliberations with our Southern Shore neighbours launched at the EU-Southern Neighbourhood ministerial meeting held in Barcelona on 26 November 2020.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact both on the EU and on its Southern Shore neighbours, with negative implications in terms of both health and citizens’ means of subsistence. The Mediterranean region is also recognised as one of the main hotspots with regard to climate change, being already seriously affected by accelerating desertification, the shortage of water and the rise in temperatures. These crises have shown the growing interdependence of the Mediterranean region and have highlighted the need to reinforce our shared resilience and open up new routes towards increased cooperation. Together with the new opportunities represented by the ecological and digital transitions, this opens up new opportunities to develop a positive agenda for our partnership.

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Combating child abuse online

The European Council and Parliament have reached an interim agreement on a temporary measure to allow providers of electronic communications services, such as web-based email and messaging services, to continue to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse online until permanent legislation announced by the European Commission is in place.

Protecting children against any form of violence or abuse is paramount for the EU. According to Portuguese Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition, Pedro Siza Vieira, they have agreed on effective and enforceable temporary rules to ensure that the activities of detecting, removing and reporting illegal material that certain electronic service providers carry out, purely on a voluntary basis, can continue, and the perpetrators can be caught and prosecuted.

In December 2020, the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) entered into application, bringing with it a new definition of electronic communications services. This definition encompasses ‘number-independent interpersonal communications services’ (NI-ICS), which includes messaging services.

Some NI-ICS providers have been using specific technologies to detect child sexual abuse material on their services in order to remove and report it to law enforcement authorities for criminal prosecution.

As the ePrivacy directive of 2002, which ensures the confidentiality of communications and personal data in the electronic communications sector, relies on the definition of electronic communications services in the Code, NI-ICS are now subject to the confidentiality rules of the ePrivacy directive rather than those of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In contrast to the GDPR, the ePrivacy directive does not contain a legal basis for the voluntary processing of content or traffic data for the purpose of detecting child sexual abuse. Therefore, for services falling within the scope of the ePrivacy directive, a specific derogation is needed so that these valuable practices can continue.

The agreement provides for a derogation to articles 5.1 and 6.1 of the ePrivacy directive to allow providers to continue to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse material, and apply anti-grooming technologies. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the GDPR will continue to apply in any case, and a number of extra safeguards will guarantee that privacy online is respected.

The Commission has announced that it will propose overarching legislation to tackle child sexual abuse online by the second quarter of 2021. That legislation will aim to provide a long-term solution to replace this temporary measure.

The interim regulation will apply for three years or until an earlier date if the permanent legal instrument is adopted by the legislators and repeals these temporary rules before then.

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Crime prevention through environmental design gains popularity. The new ISO 22341 and other news

For years, criminology and other disciplines have raised the need for a cross-cutting, multi-actor approach to dealing with security.

One of the more structured cross-cutting approaches is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) which, in essence, responds to the questions raised by environmental criminology through knowledge of how our surroundings (environment) condition security (and crime) and the methodologies that need to be designed and used to work in this field effectively. Although initially focused on the design of physical spaces, CPTED has since been extended to include social aspects relating to the movements and activities of the population within those spaces, a critical factor when considering security-related issues.

The approaches proposed by CPTED have been adopted, more or less implicitly, by influential organisations such as the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS), the Spanish Forum for Prevention and Urban Security (FEPSU), and by several urban regeneration projects in various cities around us.

Recent developments have confirmed the growing influence of this perspective and increased recognition of its effectiveness. A long standardisation process finally resulted in the approval of technical recommendations (CEN/TR 14383-2) in 2007, and this year, an ISO has been approved globally, ISO 22341, demonstrating the consolidation of the approach. The ISO constitutes an agreement on the minimum standards required to ensure environmental design principles are respected in specific spaces and areas. While the standards may still be more centred on the more physical aspects of spaces, they confirm the movement’s widespread acceptance.

The European Cutting Crime Impact (CCI) project, of which the Ministry of Home Affairs is a member, has also included this approach to prevention among its four fundamental lines of work as an effective and reliable way to reduce insecurity and limit its impact.

In Catalonia, multiple security, criminology and police professionals have recognised the need for a structured approach to promoting this type of prevention, creating the Catalan Association for the Prevention of Insecurity through Environmental Design (ACPIDA), which will be launched publicly and begin its activities in the coming months. Integrated within the framework of the International Association for the Prevention of Crime through Environmental Design (ICA), it will provide training, information and advice in the field.

Finally, on a state level, a new Spanish publication called A guide to crime prevention. Security, urban design, citizen participation and police action, provides a clear and practical guide on how to apply the CPTED principles to public spaces. César San Juan and Laura Vozmediano, professors at the University of the Basque Country and prestigious authors in the field of environmental criminology, have made an effort to translate the principles into concrete actions that can act as a practical guide for a range of public security managers and actors when planning, renovating and organising public spaces. The work offers the considerable benefit of clarity and exemplification by specifying how public spaces should be designed and how the various actors involved must adopt CPTED principles in order to ensure the resulting spaces facilitate security and quality of life for all who use them.

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The European Council adopts justice, rights and values programmes

The Council has adopted the two programmes which constitute the EU justice, rights and values fund as part of the EU financial framework for 2021-2027.

The programmes will help to further promote, strengthen and protect justice, rights and EU values. They will support the development of a European area of justice based on the rule of law, mutual recognition and mutual trust.

According to the current Portuguese holders of the rotating EU presidency, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Member States in many ways, from healthcare to their economic and social fabric, and the recovery efforts will build the Europe we will live in for decades to come.

It is of utmost importance to ensure that in doing this, we strengthen our democratic and open societies, build a future based on our common values and promote our citizens right to justice by further developing a modern, well-functioning justice area. The funding extended through these programmes will be key to helping us achieve this.

The rights and values programme will have an overall budget of a maximum of 1.55 billion (a budget of €641.7 million, with an additional allocation of a maximum of €912 million), and it sets out four specific objectives:

– To protect and promote EU values.

– To promote equality and rights, including gender equality, anti-discrimination and the rights of children.

– To promote citizens’ engagement and participation in the democratic life of the EU and raise awareness of the common European history.

– To fight violence, above all, against children and women.

The justice programme will have a budget of €305 million, and it sets out the following specific objectives:

– To facilitate and support judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters and to promote the rule of law independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

– To support and promote judicial training, with a view to fostering a common legal, judicial and rule-of-law culture.

– To facilitate effective and non-discriminatory access to justice for all, including by electronic means, and support the rights of victims of crime as well as the procedural rights of suspects and accused persons.

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