Lack of trust takes sting out of EU measures

Published: 13 May 2015 at 14:36

Anglia Ruskin academic co-authors study on counter-terrorism law and policy.

A lack of trust amongst European Union member states is hindering counter-terrorism activities, according to a new study published in The Impact, Legitimacy & Effectiveness of EU Counter-terrorism (Routledge).

The research, which involved the participation of 26 counter-terrorism operatives from across the EU, focuses on counter-terrorist finance initiatives, the European Arrest Warrant and border control databases.

Co-authored by Dr Aldo Zammit Borda of Anglia Ruskin University, along with Dr Cian C. Murphy at King’s College London and Lucy Hoyte, the study found that cross-border co-operation is affected by issues of trust and complexity, as well as questions over legitimacy and fairness.

Several EU border control experts who took part in the research, which was funded by the European Union Framework 7 programme, believed a lack of mutual trust affected how much information was shared through databases – or even whether it was shared at all.

One law enforcement officer, from Greece, said:

“The states or the organisations in the state don’t trust the others, don’t trust the users and don’t share the…important information in database[s].”

He added:

“Many states…use bilateral exchanges and don’t use the databases especially in terrorism matters. They prefer it, because they don’t trust it to put their data in the databases of international organisations – or in [the] EU organisation.”

Participants also expressed concern at the growing complexity of border control databases.  Regarding Schengen Information System II, one said:

“We are trying to have over 70 million [records] in five years – more or less – finger prints, pictures, some kind of biometrics data…” 

Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, former First Secretary in Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and now Senior Lecturer in Law at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Counter-terrorism operatives are aware of the importance of trust as a necessary foundation for co-operation, but also aware of how trust is often in short supply with regards to sharing intelligence.”

“Many believe the public are oblivious of the scale of personal data stored on EU databases, and the tension between effective security and human rights was a recurring theme in our interviews.  Some of the operatives questioned whether policies introduced in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 are effective and fair today.”

“The lack of common threat perceptions and objectives, as well as somewhat clumsy institutional frameworks, means that the EU’s efforts at effective – and just – counter-terrorism law and policy still remains more of an aspiration than a reality.”