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Battling radicalisation, terror and cyber crime in the EU


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Battling radicalisation, terror and cyber crime in the EU

Euronews – Isabelle Kumar

Indiscriminate violence aimed at the most vulnerable – Manchester was particularly chilling because children and teenagers were targeted – and like other jihadist attacks in Europe it exposed, once again, the major challenges faced by security services trying to pre-empt radicalisation before it leads to large-scale murder.

I spoke to the EU’s Security Union Commissioner Julian King just before the Manchester attack. He was at the European Business Summit in Brussels to talk about cyber security. But we also discussed jihadist terror, radicalisation and the repercussions of Brexit on European security.

His words are particularly relevant in light of this latest terrorist attack. I began by asking him what can be realistically done to fight the multi-faceted jihadist threat in Europe.

Julian King – European Commissioner for the Security Union

“It is very difficult. I don’t make any bones about that. We have done various things over the last twelve or so months to close down the space in which terrorists and others who wish to do us harm can work and also to reinforce our resilience, to make us a harder target. That work is going to continue but there will always be a level of risk. We have to be honest. We can’t reduce the level of risk to zero. When you are talking about people who become self-radicalised, one of the areas that we have to work on is countering radicalisation. Trying to reach people who might be tempted down the course of violence and stop them going down that course.

Euronews – Isabelle Kumar

Well a lot of radicalisation takes place on social media sites so are you receiving the cooperation you would like from social media sites to work with you in this?

Julian King – European Commissioner for the Security Union

We still need more – but we are getting good cooperation across a network now of platforms, more than 50 platforms who are working with us. But the other element not to be forgotten is actually working in our communities. There are people unfortunately who are seeking to tempt vulnerable individuals down the route of violence. There, we rely upon grass roots, often civil society actors, people who know their community and we work with them to try and reach vulnerable people, whether they are young people in or out of education, whether we are reaching people who are involved in petty crime or sometimes people who have come back out of prison and we get together those grass roots activists from across the European Union to compare notes, share best practice and frankly just to support each other because this can be a very lonely struggle in some communities.

Euronews – Isabelle Kumar

How are you measuring results from this?

Julian King -European Commissioner for the Security Union

It is difficult to measure results. We have a hit rate working with Internet Service providers, when we spot something or it is flagged, in eight or nine cases out of ten, it will be taken down. I am proud of that and we are talking about tens of thousands of hits that we have taken down. The problem is that we are talking about hundreds and thousands of items that we need to try and remove so we have a big challenge of scaling this work up. In the communities, you need to talk to those who are on the front line. If you talk to some of the mayors, some of the heads of some of these civil society programmes that we work with, they will tell you that even one or two or three individuals turned away from the temptation to violence makes the effort worthwhile.

Isabelle Kumar

Border controls? Do we need more border controls? Do we need to get rid of Schengen?

Julian King

Well as you know, that is not the Commission’s aim. The Commission’s aim is to get back to a fully functioning Schengen but in order to do that we need to have effective controls at our external borders and we have taken some very important steps on that in the recent past.

Isabelle Kumar

But isn’t it incredible that we are talking about this still today. It feels like I have been having this discussion now for many years – when it comes to these cross-border ties, not allowing criminals to jump through borders that police forces can’t follow through.

Julian King

It is hard work sometimes but we have made important progress. If you take the question of information sharing, there are still occasionally problems. They usually come to light in the context of horrible sets of circumstances. But last year the Schengen Information System, our core information system for sharing law enforcement information across the European Union, was used four billion times. The amount of information that was shared in it by EU member states went up 40 percent in a year so the commitment of member states to cooperate effectively including through sharing information is significant and increasing.

Isabelle Kumar

The “cyber attacks“http://www.euronews.com/2017/05/18/nato-and-eu-defence-ministers-talk-cooperation-trump-and-cyber-security earlier this month shuddered across the world and showed really how exposed we are. Is it not just a matter of time before this becomes the weapon of choice of terrorists?

Julian King

Well I hope it has served as a wake up call but actually we should have been alert to some of these concerns. Cyber criminality is a booming business. If you survey businesses – we are here at the business summit – across the EU, more than half of them say they have suffered some kind of cyber attack and if you go to France it is 80 percent. So businesses have been aware for some time of the need to tackle cyber crime.

Isabelle Kumar

And what about European Union member states because they seem to be quite recalcitrant, let’s say, when it comes to sharing intelligence data. That seems to be very much something they like to keep to themselves.

Julian King

Well, I mean on some issues, that may be true although I think we are making progress but on cyber there is already a very well developed network across the EU. We have a fantastic network of cooperation that is centred on Europol for fighting cyber crime and cyber criminality. And they are recognised internationally so in those areas there already is cooperation although we need to reinforce it.

Isabelle Kumar

Okay, well Britain is one of the greatest contributors to Europol in terms of intelligence-sharing. Now with Brexit, there is a very strong likelihood that, just given the mechanisms of how that is going to work, that information is going to have to be withdrawn.

Julian King

But in this area of security, I think we all know, certainly on the EU side, and when you listen to Prime Minister May, I think on the UK side, that we are better off tackling these threats together, whether that is terrorism, cyber or serious and organised crime.

Isabelle Kumar

But it has been used as a bargaining chip.

Julian King

No, I don’t think it has been used as a bargaining chip. If the UK side say, as they have in the past, that they want to pursue cooperation in this area – law enforcement and counter terrorism – then on the EU side, we will be ready to respond to that.

Isabelle Kumar

If we look at the whole Brexit situation and if there is no deal that is struck, which is a possibility, what impact will that have on security?

Julian King

In this area, of security, it would be better if we were able to find some way of continuing to work together and I think that is widely recognised.

Isabelle Kumar

And we accept that it is also an inevitable part of our lives. As you were saying with terrorism earlier on…we factor it in?

Julian King

At the moment, we have to factor it in. I am not sure that we will ever be able to completely eliminate cyber criminality because it is part of modern society that we have so much interaction with technology and along with all the benefits that come with that greater inter-connectedness – and there are huge economic and societal benefits – you have to face up to the fact that there is an element of risk because other people, who wish us ill, can try and use it against us.

Isabelle Kumar

Julian King, many thanks for being with me on the programme.