EU ministers to demand more data access after Brussels attacks

International data-sharing platform to be created to 'fight terrorism'

Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels, European Union ministers are planning on a new security-driven push for access to communications data – including a dedicated international data sharing platform.

This comes after 31 people were killed and roughly 300 others were injured when three suicide bombers attacked Brussel's Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station on Tuesday morning.

Ministers had drawn up a draft statement at a “hastily arranged meeting”, which was seen by the Financial Times, which reported that the EU's security politicians will soon call “for a European legislative blueprint to be drawn by June to enable government to obtain easier access” to what is being termed “digital evidence”.

As part of the plans, the ministers will back the creation of a “dedicated platform” for live information sharing, as well as a renewed push on the development of the Shengen Information System II, which the UK joined last April.

“We are convinced of the need to … find ways, as a matter of priority, to secure and obtain more quickly and effectively digital evidence,” the statement reportedly reads, continuing to reference evidence gleaned from the Middle East, as well as “service providers that are active on European territory, leading to improved compliance and direct access by law enforcement authorities.”

Such moves have history, with an EU plenary session on the retention of telecommunications being held in the UK following on from the terrorist attacks in London in 2005 – leading to a data directive which would be rushed through before ultimately being found unlawful.

According to the Financial Times, the draft statement “leans heavily on measures already called for by France's government after November's attacks in Paris, which have still not been achieved.”

The plans renew a commitment by governments to agree on a system for the sharing of airline passenger data — a longstanding EU goal that has proved painfully difficult to achieve amid strong concerns in the European Parliament about infringement of civil liberties.

The moves come despite allegations that intelligence on the attackers existed but was not acted upon by the Beglian authorities before the attack. The controversy-friendly Turkish President, Recep Erdogan, claimed that Belgium had “ignored” his nation's warning that one of the attackers, Khalid el Bakraoui, was “a foreign fighter” who had been arrested near the Syrian border. ®

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