Europe of Human Rights

For decades Europe has fallen victim to different terrorist attacks. The policy of increased judicial cooperation between member states had already been agreed in Tampere Programme of 1999. A Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism was adopted on 13 June 2002. The anti-terrorism policy has been extended after the 2004 bombings in Madrid, the Council issued a declaration against terrorism and appointed a counter-terrorism coordinator. The Hague Programme, adopted in November 2004, after the Tampere programme came to an end, included measures of exchange of information, border control, security of travel documents and police and judicial cooperation. The data retention directive, European Arrest Warrant, EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) policy, strengthening of Schengen and visa information systems are examples of measures that followed.

The counter-terrorism strategy was an attempt to strike the right balance between the fundamental right to security of citizens, right to life and other fundamental rights of individuals, including privacy and procedural rights. However, in practice the EU states failed to reach such a balance, CIA rendition cases in Poland, Lithuania and Romania may serve as an example. Some of the regulations adopted only after implementation started to cause serious concerns, e.g. the lack of proper guarantees for suspects in the European Arrest Warrant proceedings, circulation on EU citizens personal data, extradition procedures to third countries, retention of data or the use of biometric identifiers in passports.


Under no circumstances can human rights be traded or exchanged for security measures, because they constitute the very essence of democracy. The EU leaders, however, were ready to sacrifice certain human rights of their citizens, in order to achieve more security and enhanced protection against international terrorism. The main issue here is whether such measures actually add to security and if they can effectively protect Europe from international terrorism.

Therefore, the EU anti-terrorism policy is being reviewed and will need to be updated. The European Parliament during its plenary session on 14 December 2011 called on member states to submit reports on the cost-efficiency of their counter-terrorism measures and their impact on human rights. The European Commission was asked to produce an EU-wide evaluation. The EU Commission, using its powers under the Lisbon Treaty, should produce a “full and detailed” evaluation of such policies and the extent to which they are subject to democratic scrutiny. The report should also include costs of online snooping, data protection measures, funding of counter-terrorism research and relevant EU expenditures set in place since 2001 (e.g. the appointment of an EU anti-terrorism coordinator and his staff).

MEPs have called the Commission for a full overview of the accumulated impact of counter-terrorism measures on fundamental rights, measures by third countries with a direct impact in the EU and all measures taken in this field in connection with external relations, as well as the case law of the ECHR, the European Court of Justice and national courts. Also the European Data Protection Supervisor and the Fundamental Rights Agency were called to report on the level of protection of fundamental rights and personal data in the field of EU Counter-Terrorism Policy.

Also costs occurred within the private sector, e.g. telecommunication companies having to store all details of phone conversations, text messages and emails of their customers are to be included. The benefits of the businesses in the new market should also be covered by the reports.

The initiative of the European Parliament should be welcomed due to the increasing concerns about the erosion of civil liberties by measures adopted by member states after the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 and in Spain and the UK in 2004 and 2005. The only doubt may concern the scope and sincerity of the engagement of member states in the revision process.

Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, Coordinator of “Europe of Human Rights”








Author :