'Enemy Within'? Most European Terror Attacks Committed by EU Citizens – Scholar

© REUTERS / Charles PlatiauFrench police secure a street as members of special forces carried out counter-terrorism swoop at different locations in Argenteuil, a suburb in northern Paris, France, July 21, 2016
French police secure a street as members of special forces carried out counter-terrorism swoop at different locations in Argenteuil, a suburb in northern Paris, France, July 21, 2016 - Sputnik International
France flagged nearly 80,000 people as national security threats in a 2017 European police database, significantly more than any other country. Radio Sputnik discussed this with Dr. Niovi Vavoula, a legal scholar at Queen Mary University of London who studies how the database has been used.

The Schengen Information System database is monitored by the European Commission and tracks information about individuals that pose a threat to national security, border control and law enforcement. The recent report has revealed that France holds the lead in reporting potential threats with nearly 80,000 cases. According to Germany’s Interior Ministry, it accounts for 60 percent of all entries made that year.

Dr. Niovi Vavoula, a legal scholar at Queen Mary University of London who studies the use of the database, revealed that there’s a significant divergence in laws in member states in case of reporting foreigners on their entrance to the Schengen Area. She acknowledges that “there needs to be some kind of flexibility to a certain extent. However, Article 21 of the SIS decision specifically requires a proportionality assessment before registering its alert, which means that each case in order to be reported in the system has to be discovered if it’s adequate, important and relevant enough.” “Member states can be sometimes be overzealous when registering alert,” Dr. Niovi Vavoula pointed out.

READ MORE: Number of Terrorists Coming to Europe From Syria, Iraq Sees Minor Rise — Europol

Sputnik: The key question there now if the countries use different criteria to flag people, how is effective the system overall?

Dr. Niovi Vavoula: This is the key question to tackle. Generally this database is as the Schengen Information System is considered to be very, very effective. This has been considered at the heart of the compensatory measures for abolishing internal border control in this area. However divergence practices definitely put the effectiveness of the system in question because certain member states are overzealous about registering alerts. This means individuals have differentiated treatment depending on the member states on which they belong or from which who tracks the alert. And the proportionality assessment is very necessary in this context because otherwise we have registration of alert en masse, which seems to be the case in France.

Sputnik: Just elaborate a little more, why you think France flagged more people than other European countries put together.

Dr. Niovi Vavoula: Generally France has been very active in using the Schengen Information System for reporting individuals. And if you see for instance the statistics from earlier years, you generally see that generally the French authorities have been using the system for years quite extensively. This is not the case only for France, Germany and Italy have also been very proactive. And they don’t experience these kinds of increased alerts, as it is the case in France.

I think this needs to be related with the more urgent problem of foreign terrorist fighters. And I think that due to the recent terrorist attacks in France over the past years …  it has requested member states to use a facility of free checks, to put more and more alerts, and use the facility more and more.

And I think that certain member states that particularly suffer from terrorist events have been particularly active in this context. This to a certain extent relates with the fact that these terrorist events do not come now from foreigners, I think now the center of attention, the focus is more towards EU citizens. There is no other possibility of monitoring EU citizens than this facility.

And if the” enemy” is from within, countries like France, which has a growing number of Muslims, perhaps of the second generation, they have to find a way to contain them and prevent their movements.

Sputnik: European official have expressed concerns that this system is being misused. Do you think this is the case?

Dr. Niovi Vavoula: Yes, absolutely. I think the numbers speak for themselves. I think this dramatic increase in the past one year in discrete checks on behalf of France, signals that something is not working. Where is the proportionality assessment? How can we guarantee that those individuals flagged in the system have undergone a professional assessment before being registered there? They are not familiar with the existence of the alert.

This alert is not supposed to be visible with them, the discrete check is not supposed to be visible. Therefore, what are the guarantees that a proportionality assessment has indeed taken place before the registration? Where is the transparency, if you go and check similar statistics early years, you will see that there is no breakdown of which member states insert how many alerts, where they come from. I think that there’s a huge possibility that the system is being misused, that there’s registration of alerts en masse in a discriminate manner. And there is to be a lot more transparency as to what the criteria of alerts are, and which individuals are flagged in the system for which reasons.

The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Niovi Vavoula do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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