European Commission

Europol issues statement on risks of arms trafficking stemming from War in Ukraine

On 22 July, Europol released a statement warning about the increase in arms trafficking due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as several cases of individuals within criminal networks trying to leave the country with firearms have been reported to the agency. Additionally, Europol points out that countries that have taken in larger numbers of refugees are expressing concern that some of them left weapons and ammunition in the border area, as such depots have been discovered. Those weapons were either destined for sale or to be exchanged for goods and services. In this regard, Konstantin von Notz, member of the Interior Committee in the German Bundestag, stated that Europe must learn from experiences of past wars such as the war in Kosovo, as weapons from war zones can often diffuse into areas of extremism and organized crime. He calls for international cooperation and effective control of weapon delivery to Ukraine in order to reduce arms trafficking. To this end, the Ukrainian Parliament created a dedicated commission in charge of creating a legal framework to better monitor military aid and collect information about weapon trafficking. (link 1; link 2)

EU Parliament expresses resistance after US agrees biometrics deal with UK

The British government has recently signed a deal with the US – called the Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP) − agreeing to share records from their biometrics database with US border guards. In this context, the US government aims to gather more data about citizens from a list of 40 countries that can currently enter American territory without a visa, and eventually all EU Member States. Back in June, an informal meeting between the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the US Department of Homeland Security discussed this project, and three unnamed Member States reportedly signed it. MEP Patrick Breyer criticized the American approach: from his perspective, the US “lacks adequate data and fundamental rights protection” and providing such data would expose EU citizens to arbitrary measures such as detention or false suspicion. (link)

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Europol condemned by European Parliament for slow response on spyware technology

A new European Parliamentary inquiry committee (launched in April this year) is currently investigating the use of Pegasus surveillance software and other types of spyware within the EU, with a particular focus on the use of spyware against journalists, politicians, law enforcement officials, diplomats, lawyers, business people, civil society actors and other citizens. In the latest meeting of the Pegasus committee, which took place on 30 August, several MEPs condemned Europol for failing to launch a formal investigation into the use of spyware by EU governments against citizens. Cypriot MEP Giorgos Georgiou (GUE/NGL) asked Europol’s Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe why the agency wasn’t taking action when, he said, certain countries were breaking the law or “polluting” the Continent with spyware. Meanwhile, Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew Europe) emphasised that “It’s the duty of Europol to investigate the spyware scandals and it falls directly under its mandate, which covers cyber-crime, corruption, racketeering and extortion.” MEPs were reportedly less than impressed by Lecouffe’s admission that, on Pegasus, Europol “previously didn’t know it existed,” nor by his assertion that Europol’s mandate does not allow interventions within Member State national security policies. The Pegasus committee is expected to issue a final report on its findings by April 2023. (link)

Denmark unveils nationwide anti-money laundering strategy

The Danish government recently announced that Spillemyndigheden, the Danish gaming regulator, along with the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority, the Bar Council, and the Danish Business Authority will be involved in the new national anti-money laundering strategy of the Danish Ministry of Justice. This new strategy will focus on high-risk sectors such as currency exchange companies and money transfer companies, neo-banks, cryptocurrency and gambling. In order to tackle those threats, the government will rely on increased cooperation between public and private sectors, international collaboration as well as taking advantage of innovative digital solutions. Additionally, the Justice Minister announced that the Danish law enforcement set up a special AML unit, which will be a fully-fledged member of the cooperation with private actors in the fight against money laundering. (link)

Look Ahead

15 September: European Parliament LIBE Committee meets to discuss “Existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.”

19-20 September: Europol holds the 9th edition of its EDEN Conference, this year focusing on the law enforcement challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

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