European Commission
Commission establishes a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate pathway to Europe’s safe reopening
In a Communication adopted Thursday, the Commission calls on Member States to coordinate their approach to a gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions once the epidemiological situation improves across the bloc. The Commission’s legislative proposal sets up a common framework for a Digital Green Certificate, which will encompass three types: vaccination certificates, test certificates (NAAT/RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test), and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19 (unclear how this will be measured). The certificates will be issued in a digital form or paper (both will have a QR code that contains necessary key information as well as a digital signature). Member States will be responsible for technical implementation, and adoption by Parliament and Council is expected to be finalised before the summer.

Commission opens public consultation on CEPOL – the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training
The Commission has launched a public consultation to evaluate whether CEPOL, the EU agency responsible for coordinating training of law enforcement officers tackling serious and organised crime, is fit for purpose. CEPOL became operational in 2001 initially, and in 2016 became the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training – aiming to foster a common European law enforcement culture through online learning, residential activities, exchange programmes, common curricula, research and science. The public consultation follows an earlier stakeholder consultation that took place last year and is designed to allow the wider public to share views and comments on the roadmap for CEPOL’s fitness check. It runs from 18 March to 13 May 2021.

 EU ministers approve new rules on combatting online terrorist content
On 16 March, EU ministers approved a trilogue agreement on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. Once implemented, the Regulation will ensure that online platforms play a more active role in detecting, removing and preventing terrorist content from being shared amongst their users, and that such content is removed within a maximum of one hour. The rules form a central part of the Commission’s Counter-Terrorism Agenda. The Regulation must now be formally adopted by the European Parliament before it can become finalised, and a plenary debate is scheduled for the end of April.

Commission launches new import control system – ICS2 – to combat illicit goods trade
The first phase of a new EU import control system, ICS2, a new arm of the Customs Union, came into operation on 15 March. In its first phase, ICS2 will aim to curb traffic of illicit goods across the EU’s external borders in postal and express consignments coming by air, and eventually will apply to all types of cargo transport also. ICS2 is at the centre of the EU’s Customs Pre-Arrival Safety and Security Programme, and will replace the existing import control system in three phases between 15 March 2021 and 1 March 2024.

·       Ireland: Ireland has joined the Schengen Information System (SIS), a database which allows police and border enforcement to check criminal records, or missing person files, in 26 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. (link)

·       Italy: Italian police have dismantled an international migrant smuggling ring operating between Kurdish areas and Europe. Among those arrested include an Iraqi national linked to a terrorist attack in Parsons Green, London in September 2017.

·       Germany: A coordinated effort between the German Federal Police and Europol has dismantled an organised crime group smuggling migrants from Turkey to Germany along the so-called Balkan route. (link)

·       Sweden: An annual report by the Swedish Security Police (Säpo) found threats from abroad and domestic extremist factions against Sweden have increased since the pandemic began. (link)

·       Spain: Spanish police have seized the first narco-submarine made in Europe, supported by Colombian, Dutch, Portuguese, British and American police forces as part of Operation FERRO, a high-level operation to tackle organised crime and drug trafficking networks. (link)

Other news
Report by Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner condemns EU migration policy
Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has this week released a report entitled “A distress call for human rights. The widening gap in migrant protection in the Mediterranean.” The report assesses Member States’ implementation of the Commissioner’s 2019 recommendation on rescuing migrants at sea, and finds that despite some progress in select areas of focus, the human rights situation in the Mediterranean remains disastrous, with more than 2,400 registered deaths from July 2019 until December 2020. To alleviate the situation, the Commissioner calls on Member States to ensure adequate search and rescue infrastructures are put in place; to prevent “pushbacks” and other decisions that put refugees and migrants in grave danger; and to expand safe and legal routes for migration. (link)

Belgian police in Brussels to start using body cameras
Officers in the Brussels Capital-Ixelles region of Belgium will begin using 231 body cameras at the start of April, in an attempt to improve relations between police officers and the general public, and augment accountability. The body cameras will, according to the government, improve the safety of all parties during routine stops, help to uncover the truth in criminal matters, and avoid the escalation of violence. Footage from the body cameras will be applicable during court cases, too. (link)

Look Ahead

–          19 March: Council of the EU Working Party on Cooperation in Criminal Matters (COPEN) meets.

–          21 March: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

–          22 March: EU Foreign Affairs ministers discuss current security affairs developments with High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security PolicyJosep Borrell, and hold an informal exchange with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

–          23 March: Presentation of the Eurojust Annual Report to the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee

–          23 March: European Commission delivers a presentation to the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee on the Europol decryption platform for law enforcement.

–          23 March: European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee discuss European Production and Preservation Orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters, and harmonised rules on the appointment of legal representatives for the purpose of gathering evidence in criminal proceedings.

–          25-26 March: European Council summit.

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