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Round-up of news stories from across the EU
30.3.16
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EU: As Terrorists Cross Borders, Europe Sees Anew That Its Intelligence Does Not (New York Times, link): "By now it is abundantly clear that the terrorists who work for the Islamic State think, cooperate and operate across borders, ignoring national boundaries. The increasingly urgent question for Europe in its struggle against them is, Can it do the same?

The outlook is not promising. On Wednesday there were renewed calls for a pan-European intelligence agency that would effectively share information from different countries. Members of the European Parliament took to the airwaves and print to denounce, again, the lack of coordination.

Yet the hurdles are as basic as national pride and bureaucratic turf protection, with experts pointing out that even within nations, intelligence-gathering agencies — France alone has some 33 of them — have trouble cooperating."

EU-DENMARK: Minister: Denmark’s security opt-out ‘problematic’ after Brussels attacks (EurActiv, link): "Denmark’s Minister for Justice Søren Pind worries that his country will increasingly miss out on important information that could prevent terror attacks, after EU ministers yesterday (24 March) agreed to step up the information sharing between intelligence services.

Since Denmark voted to keep its opt-out on justice and home affairs in December 2015, the country has been negotiating a special deal for a continued Europol cooperation, but this deal is likely to keep the Scandinavian country out of the most essential parts of the anti-terrorism fight."

HUNGARY: Parliamentary committee takes 20 minutes clearing bill enabling PM Orbán free hand on spending (Politics.hu, link): "It took no more than 20 minutes for Parliament’s budget committee last week to approve a proposal that would authorize the prime minister to decide single-handedly on any state spending, reports 444.hu.

The proposal, which is said to be the brainchild of government office chief János Lázár, would exempt the government and Viktor Orbán from needing Parliament’s approval for spending from the state budget. This would mean that the government can issue a decree on a certain spending item and the resources will be automatically accounted for in the state budget. The last time this method was in use was before the change of systems in 1990."

ITALY-ECHR: European Court issues emergency measure to stop Italy from evicting Roma family (European Roma Rights Centre, link): "A disabled Romani woman and her daughter stopped their eviction by getting the European Court of Human Rights to issue an emergency measure moments before closing for the holiday weekend. The women, who have lived with other family members for years in a “temporary” segregated, Roma-only shelter run by the City of Rome, were threatened with eviction last week. Now in a decision made within 24 hours, the European Court of Human Rights told the Italian Government not to evict the family."

Polish government backs EU-wide exchange of air passenger data (Radio Poland, link): "Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak joined his EU counterparts in calling for the adoption of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive by the European Parliament.

An extraordinary meeting of justice and security ministers in Brussels on Thursday came two days after suicide bombers killed over 30 people in the Belgian capital.

The PNR would give security services of each member state access to an extensive database of information on air passengers."

UK: Art and the Law: Obscene Publications (Index on Censorship, link): "Freedom of expression is essential to the arts. But the laws and practices that protect and nurture free expression are often poorly understood both by practitioners and by those enforcing the law. The law itself is often contradictory, and even the rights that underpin the laws are fraught with qualifications that can potentially undermine artistic free expression.

As indicated in these packs, and illustrated by the online case studies – available at indexoncensorship. org/artandoffence – there is scope to develop greater understanding of the ways in which artists and arts organisations can navigate the complexity of the law, and when and how to work with the police. We aim to put into context the constraints implicit in the European Convention on Human Rights and so address unnecessary censorship and self-censorship."

UK: Criminal justice faces perfect storm of cuts and overstretch (Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, link): "Criminal justice agencies across the UK face a perfect storm of growing demand and shrinking budgets by the time of the next General Election, according to new analysis by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

A rising prison population – set to top 100,000 by 2020 – and inadequate legal aid funding are just two of the threats facing the delivery of justice across the UK, the Centre reports.

Governments in London, Edinburgh and Belfast should pursue a managed downsizing of the key criminal justice agencies to reflect shrinking budgets, the Centre concludes, rather than continuing to squeeze ever greater delivery out of ever diminishing resources."

UK: Stop targeting football fans with ‘draconian laws’, says campaign group (The Guardian, link): "Football supporters are being treated with double standards compared to fans of other sports, according to a campaign group which has revealed there have been 3,033 prosecutions for “draconian” football-only offences since 2010.

The campaign Football Fans Not Criminals (FFNC), launched in conjunction with civil liberties group the Manifesto Club, wants to scrap a series of crimes that only relate to football supporters. These include offences of indecent chanting, encroaching on the pitch and possession of alcohol when entering a ground.

The group, which has the backing of individuals from Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation, also wants to end civil banning orders, “bubble matches” where ticket purchases and travel arrangements are restricted, intrusive body searches, the filming of fans by police, and end the ban on drinking alcohol in stadium spectator areas."

UK: UNDERCOVER POLICING: Helen Steel Demolishes “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, link): "Last week’s preliminary hearing of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing was concerned with issues of disclosure and secrecy.

Helen Steel is a lifelong activist and no stranger to the Royal Courts of Justice. She has just finished a four-year legal case against the police after she discovered her former partner John Barker was in fact undercover police officer John Dines. It was a fight characterised by Metropolitan police attempts to use any tactic to obstruct accountability and justice. At the end the Met conceded “these legal proceedings have been painful, distressing and intrusive and added to the damage and distress”.

The same Met lawyers are now wheeling out the same tactics for the Pitchford inquiry, claiming they can’t talk about officers as there is a long-standing policy of ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’. Helen Steel told last week’s hearing there is no such thing. Clear, comprehensive and authoritative, her speech ended with a round of applause from the court."

USA: Mass surveillance silences minority opinions, according to study (The Washington Post, link): "A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted "democratizing" effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, studied the effects of subtle reminders of mass surveillance on its subjects. The majority of participants reacted by suppressing opinions that they perceived to be in the minority. This research illustrates the silencing effect of participants’ dissenting opinions in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013."

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