LIBE Hearing with Commissioner-designate Sir Julian King

Written by Andrew Todd and Dirk Goll on 13 September 2016 in EU Monitoring
EU Monitoring

On September 12, the LIBE Committee held a hearing with Sir Julian King, the Commissioner-designate for the Security Union.

According to Rule 118 of the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure, nominated Commissioners shall appear before the appropriate committees according to their prospective fields of responsibility. On September 13, the LIBE Committee Coordinators will assess the outcome of the hearing (in camera), after which their evaluation will be put to the Conference of Presidents. If the Conference of Presidents agrees, the Plenary is scheduled to vote on King's candidature by secret ballot on September 15 at noon.

Please find a summary of the hearing below.

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), the Committee Chair, mentioned that the procedure pursuant to rule 118 annex 26 of the rules of procedure shall evaluate the Commissioner-Designate on the basis of their general competence, European commitment and personal independence. The Commissioner-designates' knowledge on topic and communication skills should be assessed as well.

Sir Julian King, Commissioner-Designate for Security Union stated he will serve nothing but the European general interest. He outlined several specific actions to be taken to address terrorism, cybercrime and organised crime. As under article 4 of the Treaty national security remains the sole responsibility of the Member States, Julian King stressed the need for effective cooperation. An effective and sustainable Security Union should be created, to be reached by focusing on implementation, evidence-based policies, a European Security Framework that does not undermine the rule of law.

He underlined nine priorities within the approach of the European Security Framework:

  • The Directive on Combatting Terrorism
  • Europol, its European Counter Terrorism Centre (CTC) and the European Cybercrime Centre
  • Tackle radicalisation
  • Tackle terrorist propaganda and hate speech online
  • Existing information systems need to be fully implemented and applied
  • To assess how to make best use of existing information at EU level
  • Strengthen security at the external borders
  • Strengthen EU's capacity to protect critical infrastructure and soft targets
  • Address the needs of victims of terrorism

Please find Commissioner-Designate Julian King's full speech here .

Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT) asked Julian King how a Security Union can be currently promoted in an EU that practically deals with this issue in an intergovernmental way. She asked him what efforts he would make for national foreign fighters with dual nationality, in terms of withdrawing their passports.

Julian King agreed to take a comprehensive, multi-layered framework approach. He sees a role for the EU to enforce agencies, information systems and to strengthen borders, legislation and to facilitate cooperation, also with third countries. Furthermore he set out to the funding capabilities through ISF and Horizon 2020. He argued that passports and nationality are a Member State competency, adding that some Member States take action on passports. EU law allows refusing or expelling people on safety grounds.

Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE) stated that the S&D has been asking for a long time for an overview and framework approach on all the available measures. She asked him whether he intends to do an evaluation, to guarantee that gaps or excessive legislation do not exist. And how does Julian King guarantee, in the protection of the democratic and free society, that all the Commission proposals follow the fundamental rights principles? She was especially concerned about the proportionality and necessity, as well as the personal data and privacy protection.

Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) asked if he could guarantee the Commission is not going to stretch beyond its competences and about the division between national intelligence gathering and the exchange of law enforcement information. And how does the Commissioner-designate see the developments, as suggested by some political groups, to go beyond what the treaties have foreseen or can legitimately control. Finally, Mr Kirkhope asked in the context of cross-border cooperation whether Julian King would pursue the Joint Investigation Teams (JITs).

Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE) asked how he would you ensure that his policies are evidence-based and focused on outcomes? And can he commit in distinguishing a clear distinction between the EU's security policies on the one hand and asylum policies on the other hand? What would his recommendations be on the prevention of radicalisation?

Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, DE) questioned how Julian King is going to make sure his work is aligned with the work done by Commissioner Avramopoulos. And she asked how he will act in terms of conformity to EU law, such as the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR).

Julian King responded by underlining the importance of the treaties and the frameworks and the importance to test the proposals for necessity, proportionality and for it to remain within the legal limitations. He answered to the MEPs that the CTC, within Europol, can rebuild the trust which is needed to reassure European citizens. On JITs, he supported the idea to do more to encourage Member States to use them. He was surprised it was not used so much yet. He answered Ms Wikström that evidence-based policy is his priority and habit. On security and immigration, he argued these different policies should not be mixed up. However, as there were some reported cases of terrorists using migrant routes to come to Europe, he stressed that hotspots will be reinforced and best practices will be used to defend the EU. On counter-radicalisation he added that, from his experience in Northern Ireland, one has to bring together the local actors. On the internal cooperation in the Commission he said he is used to work with others. He considered himself as an extra additional source for the other Commissioners to cooperate with. He also welcomed the fact that there is a task-force that does horizontal work in the Commission.

Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL) spoke about the financing of terrorist activities, and the so-called trusts. She asked how Julian King judged the risks of British trusts. Secondly she wondered if he thought the British government wanted to de-politicise the Commission, as the government proposed him, being a non-political figure.

Gerard Batten (EFDD, UK) wondered why the UK is nominating a Commissioner at all. And if interests of the UK and the EU will conflict, which one will he serve? He also asked Julian King how long he thought his post was going to last with the Brexit soon to happen.

Janice Atkinson (ENF, UK) was deeply disturbed he took the oath to this position and said he had to work for the UK in the first place.

Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP, CZ) wondered why the UK will be involved in security and migration issues while it is about to leave the Union. 

Julian King responded to the MEPs by saying that questions about the British government issues and the Brexit negotiations are not for him to answer, as he is not here as a representative of the British government. He will be completely independent and serve in the general European interest, Julian King underlined.

Marju Lauristin (S&D, ES) asked on his priorities for the High Level Group. She mentioned the common European database, which she called the Super Database, and wondered whether he would support this development. And how did he see the risks concerning personal data protection?

Helga Stevens (ECR, BE) wondered if Julian King believed that the Member States need to work more closely with internet service providers to fight terrorism. She also mentioned the recent EU Canada PNR agreement and the advocate-general's opinion on that. And she asked whether the Commission likes to come forward with PNR data on trains and boats, as these are also increasingly targeted by terrorists.

Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE, FR) wondered about Julian King's priorities concerning cyberterrorism. On sexual exploitation of minors online, she found the 2011 Directive to be outdated.

Barbara Spinelli (GUE/NGL, IT) wondered what type of guarantees can be provided to protect privacy and security. She also asked if Julian King thinks terrorists will be stopped by EU measures?

Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK) asked Julian King what the key principles for cooperation with third countries are and how he will ensure greater transparency about those principles.

Julian King answered that fundamental rights and data protection is the number one priority, all in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality. He supports the High Level Group and wants to see the full range of options available on information systems. There is not just the common database, mentioned by Ms Lauristin, but also the shared interface and distinct systems that can talk to each other. He also mentioned the internet forum group with experts, from which he will try to retrieve recommendations to strengthen cybersecurity. Therefore, he underlined the importance of the Network and Information Systems Directive and the need for reassessing the 2011 Children Directive. Furthermore, Julian King wanted to look at encryptions used in cyber-attacks in France. To Mr Lambert he responded that actions undermining fundamental rights should be criticised. The Privacy Shield, the Redress Act and the Umbrella Agreement ensure strategic cooperation that is consistent with the values that we expect of ourselves and others.

Laura Ferrara (EFDD, IT) asked how the Commissioner-designate plans on tackling security without including organised crime?

Julian King said that corruption, confiscation, environmental damaging and wildlife trafficking are important to take account of.

Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi (EPP, EL) wondered if he was preparing a proposal on financing of terrorism.

Julian King replied that the situation should be reassessed, as well as the options to see what can be done in this field.

Péter Niedermüller (S&D, HU) asked what Julian King's initiatives on Europol's Counter Terrorist Centre entail? On European requests for banning encryptions and mandating obligatory back-doors Mr Niedermüller wanted to know Julian King's stance. And how did Julian King ensure that proposals by the Commission were not overturned by the Court?

Julian King responded that he wants to cooperate with the director of Europol to see what needs to be done on the CTC.

Jussi Halla-aho (ECR, FI) found the Firearms Directive to be an attack on legitimate private ownership of firearms. He asked Julian King if he thought the principles of subsidiarity, necessity and proportionality were valid here? On the access of law enforcement authorities to data, he asked whether Julian King could guarantee the privacy of citizens.

Julian King said that his first challenge is to fight illegal firearms trafficking. On citizens' use of firearms, he wanted to get the balance right.

Louis Michel (ALDE, BE) was wondering whether Julian King will support the proposal of the Terrorist Directive. On PNR data, he wanted to know Julian King's thought on if it. Would be a good idea to have a European information gathering system that would harmonise the criteria for when data could be gathered or not?

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About the author

Andrew Todd and Dirk Goll are both consultants at Dods EU Monitoring

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