At its today’s sitting, the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) got an overview of the current internal security situation in the European Union and the activities planned for ensuring internal security. At the discussion that emerged during the parliamentary hearing, it was found that exchange of information contributed to reducing the threat of terrorism.
In the opinion of Deputy Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Jaak Madison, who chaired the sitting, the threat to security in Europe can be minimised by improving exchange of information through e-solutions, and here Estonia can share its experience with other countries. “Estonia has used its common sense and made preparations to keep its threat level low,” Madison said.
Madison pointed out as a problem that in air traffic, the movement of people is monitored to prevent threats, but on land the checking is not sufficient. In his opinion, it is necessary to carry out random checks on the internal borders of the European Union. He thinks that Estonia should pay more attention to controlling its external border in order to prevent the transit of foreign fighters through Estonia.
Member of the Committee Kalle Palling drew attention to the risk that if the people who had been waiting for a new possibility at the refugee camps for a long time were not helped, they could be recruited by a terrorist group. He said that the European Union had to invest into the health care system, creation of jobs and education in the countries that had accepted refugees, so that there would be no new generation of child fighters. He added that it was a well-known fact that if we did not give them education, the terrorists would do that.
Deputy Secretary General for Internal Security Policy at the Ministry of the Interior Erkki Koort also spoke at the sitting of the Committee. He told that people who had gone to Syria to be foreign fighters had used the countries of the European Union, including Estonia, as transit countries.
Koort does not see any threat of radicalisation in Estonia, because the community that could threat public order or security is small. “The situation in Estonia is peaceful at the moment, and I do not see that the threat of terrorism has grown in Estonia,” Koort said. But he added that the Presidency of the Council of the EU would make Estonia more visible, and thus also increase the threat of terrorism.
Koort considers e-solutions a possibility for capturing those who are suspected of terrorism. He pointed out two measures – the possibility to check the data of air passengers and the digitalisation of hotel registration forms, which help ascertain the patterns of terrorist groups and could be used for fighting against drug trafficking. The states also exchange the fingerprints and DNA of people.
The IT Agency in Estonia deals with the visa register, but there is no data exchange with all Member States yet. Koort said that it was important to enlarge the mandate of the IT Agency, so that besides the use of existing systems, the mutual interoperability of information systems could be increased. One of the means for ensuring security is the border management system that in the future will operate together with the customs system.
Last year, the exercise of ATLAS network, which connects special units, was held in Estonia. 400 people from 15 countries, including the EU Member States, Switzerland and the USA, participated in the largest anti-terrorist exercise in Europe.
Koort also emphasised that fighting against illegal arms trade in Ukraine was an important challenge. “The war in West Balkan ended 16 years ago, and the European Union is still dealing with the problems of illegal arms trafficking there. As the war is still going on in Ukraine, the number of illegal weapons there is even larger,” Koort said, and added that uprooting the arms trafficking that threatens the security of Europe would be one of the important tasks during the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council.
According to Europol, 34 terrorist attacks too place in Europe last year. The year before this number was 17. The most problematic regions are France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.