Digital data access, information exchange and return ISIL fighters the focus of EU Justice Ministers’ meeting

The problems of criminal justice in cyberspace, access to computer data, the issue of ISIL fighters returning to Europe and the need to strengthen the exchange of information by Member States with the EUROJUST, were discussed at the EU28 Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs Council, in the presence of Minister of Justice and Public Order Ionas Nicolaou.

The EU28 also discussed the problems that exist in all Member States with respect to criminal justice in cyberspace, as part of efforts being made to combat serious crime such as terrorism and child pornography.

In his intervention during the debate on access to electronic “cloud” data and improving access to electronic evidence through cooperation with internet providers, Minister Nicolaou said that “access to electronic evidence is the biggest challenge in efforts to combat organized crime.” He also noted that Cyprus has established a close working relationship with the telecom service companies nationwide.

The Minister informed his counterparts that as part of this cooperation, a communication link has been established, through which all data sent in both paper and electronic format can be accessed for further use by law enforcement authorities. He stressed that Cyprus supports the initiative for establishing a secure web portal (e-codex), which aims to transmit information between the EU authorities via encryption, adding that the creation of an electronic continuous communication platform to facilitate direct cooperation between Member States would be very useful.

Given the disparity in the procedures between Member States, the Minister of Justice stressed “the need to promote the necessary arrangements to provide answers to our common problems”.

The 28 exchanged views in relation to the next steps and possible measures that can be taken in the field of criminal justice in relation to returning foreign terrorist fighters. During the debate, emphasis was placed on enhancing the exchange of information with EUROJUST, or to which it is clear that it has an important role in this context.

The 28 also debated the need to deepen cooperation with third countries in the region through bilateral agreements and the establishment of dialog and cooperation in police and judicial cooperation. Furthermore, having in mind the numbers of returnees militants are increasing because of the collapse of the Islamic State, Ministers recognized the challenges and the risks posed to local communities and exchanged views on the development of integration programs and support for vulnerable groups such as women and children.

Ministers agreed on the need for full use of risk assessment tools, in collaboration with local authorities and organizations of civil society for preventive measures particularly in the field de-radicalization. In this context they examined the implementation of programs for awareness and education purposes functionaries of critical services of the Member States, such as prisons, which are the main area of growth of radicalization phenomenon.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the Minister of Justice and Public Order held a bilateral meeting with his Hungarian counterpart, to discuss future steps regarding the development and functioning of the European Network for the Rights of Victims.

The network was set up for a period of two years from the adoption of the relevant Directive and operated with funding from the Commission, having as a core competence to provide expertise to the competent authorities of the Member States for victim support matters for the purpose of direct access to justice. The two ministers exchanged views on the terms of reference of the network and the possibility of maintaining a permanent basis and agreed on further coordination and examination of the potential benefits of the above perspective.

Source: Cyprus News Agency