Brexit will not af­fect in­tel co­op­er­a­tion: EU of­fi­cial

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

ZAGREB: Brexit will not neg­a­tively af­fect co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in Europe, the EU’s anti-ter­ror­ism co­or­di­na­tor said. “The ex­change of in­for­ma­tion is not im­pacted,” Gilles de Ker­chove said on the side­lines of a meet­ing of EU in­te­rior min­is­ters in Zagreb on Fri­day. Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices is al­ready “out­side the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work of the” EU, and non-mem­bers Nor­way and Switzer­land are al­ready part of it, he told AFP. Bri­tain will also be rep­re­sented within this frame­work after it leaves the Euro­pean Union on Jan­uary 31. He said that the is­sue is more whether if, and in what form, Lon­don will con­tinue to have ac­cess to EU po­lice data.

Bri­tain shares in­tel­li­gence through the Schen­gen In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (SIS) for law en­force­ment pur­poses, al­though it is not part of the pass­port-free Schen­gen zone. In re­cent years, the SIS in­for­ma­tion base has be­come an im­por­tant tool for track­ing ji­hadists en­ter­ing Europe from Syria and Iraq. De Ker­chove was not able to say how the EU could con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with Bri­tain in re­gard to the SIS.

But “it is im­pos­si­ble for a non-EU mem­ber to have the (same) de­gree of in­ti­macy as that of an EU mem­ber.” The ques­tion should be re­solved in talks be­tween Lon­don and Brus­sels on their fu­ture re­la­tion­ship, ex­pected to be­gin in Fe­bru­ary. De Ker­chove said the EU has worked in close co­op­er­a­tion with the US on law en­force­ment mat­ters and “it would be ab­surd that our ge­o­graph­i­cally close neigh­bor finds it­self in an in­fe­rior sit­u­a­tion to that of the Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly in the fight against ter­ror­ism.” The Bel­gian EU of­fi­cial also ex­pressed con­cern over the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq and Syria.

He said re­cent de­vel­op­ments on the ground could lead the Is­lamic State group to “re­build” after the de­feat of its caliphate. A pullout of US troops “would cer­tainly weaken the ca­pac­ity of the Iraqi army to fight what re­mains of” the IS. He also said the fate of some 5,500 IS fight­ers has not been suf­fi­ciently clar­i­fied.

“A good num­ber” of them have al­ready re­turned home, around 600 are in pris­ons in the re­gion and at least one quar­ter are dead. But the num­ber of dead is prob­a­bly higher as many ji­hadists have been killed in bat­tles for the caliphate but au­thor­i­ties have not re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion.

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