Joint statement of the Vendôme Group on the terrorist attacks in France

The Ministers of Justice of Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and their representatives in the presence of the Minister of Justice of Germany, President of the Council of the European Union [and of the Commissioner for Internal Market, the Commisioner for Justice, the Commissioner for Home affairs and the Chair of the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament] express their shock at the violent terrorist attacks in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday 16 October and in Nice on Thursday 29 October. They condemn in the most absolute manner these expressions of barbarism, address ther sincere condolences to the victims' families and friends and, in the light of these tragic events,

Strongly condemn terrorism, which undermines our common values and divides our societies through savagery and intolerance;

Express their unity and solidarity in the fight against terrorism;

Wish to recall their profound attachment to the fundamental values of the European Union, as expressed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, according to which the respect of cultural and religious diversity, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, academic freedom and pluralism of media are among the bases for the construction of the European Union and its founding identity;

Affirm their determination to guarantee the effectiveness of these fundamental values by ensuring their protection in all circumstances;

Express their determination to provide rapid, relentless and firm responses to terrorist acts with due respect to the values of the European Union;

Underline the new challenges raised by online communication allowing the rapid spread of all forms of online hate and express their determination not to let the use of communication tools, especially the Internet and social networks, be hijacked;

Note with concern the major role played by these communication tools in radicalisation processes, which can lead to hateful, violent and terrorist acts;

Recall the initiatives already undertaken to combine and balance freedom of expression, online and offline, with the fight against hate speech on the Internet and social networks;

Recall the importance of the detection, reporting, and rapid withdrawal of online terrorist content, and the need to regulate more effectively the functioning of online communication platforms to this end;

Underline the major role played by EUROPOL and EUROJUST in facilitating coordination between all Member States in transnational investigations and the importance to further develop Eurojust counter terrorism register; recall that cooperation between Member States is crucial, both among investigative services and among judicial authorities;

Warn of the need to set up effective mechanisms to ease access by investigative services and judicial authorities to e-evidence, which is an indispensable tool for the identification and conviction of the authors of hate crimes and terrorism crimes;

Call on the European Parliament and the Council to reach a rapid and ambitious agreement on the draft Regulation on the prevention of the online dissemination of terrorist content, providing for the effective removal of terrorist content within one hour after its publication, by means of removal orders with cross-border and enforceable effect; recall the urgent need for an efficient and operational solution, underline that accurate and effective safeguards for the protection of the freedom of expression and other relevant fundamental rights are part of this solution;

Call on the European Parliament to give its position as quickly as possible on the legislative proposals relating to access to e-evidence, in order to be able to engage as soon as possible in a nourished and constructive dialogue with the Council, leading to an ambitious legal framework meeting the operational need for an efficient investigation tool for the judicial authorities and effective protection of fundamental rights; recall in this context that this agreement will enable progress to be made in the discussions undertaken on the same subject with the United States, which is a further essential step for the effectiveness of investigations;

Call on the Council to enter into a constructive dialogue on encryption in order to preserve the ability of law enforcement and judicial authorities to exercise their lawful powers, both online and offline while maintaining strong safeguards for the protection of the relevant fundamental rights and the digital security of governments, industry and society;

Look forward to the Commission's forthcoming proposals that the Commission will make on a Digital Services Act;

Wish in particular that future legislation should make it possible to gain a better apprehension of illegal content at Union level and to preserve the capacity of each Member State to extend beyond a strong common base the contents qualified as illicit or illegal, while ensuring a very high level of cooperation between the competent authorities of the Member States and with private operators in order to combat such contents;

Ask in any case to be closely involved in the discussions, as these issues are closely interlinked with operational concerns expressed by judicial authorities and related to key aspects of the fight against crime; add that they will pay specific attention to the protection of fundamental rights;

State that they will continue to address these topics on a regular basis.

Approved in videoconferencing,

October 30th, 2020


Press release by the Ministry of Justice

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