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Defence

Council presidency and European Parliament reach a provisional agreement on removing online terrorist content

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The EU is working to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalise, recruit and incite to violence. Today (10 December), the Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a draft regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online.

The aim of the legislation is a swift removal of terrorist content online and to establish one common instrument for all member states to this effect. The proposed rules will apply to hosting service providers offering services in the EU, whether or not they have their main establishment in the member states. Voluntary co-operation with these companies will continue, but the legislation will provide additional tools for member states to enforce the rapid removal of terrorist content where necessary. The draft legislation provides for a clear scope and a clear uniform definition of terrorist content in order to fully respect the fundamental rights protected in the EU's legal order and notably those guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Removal orders

Competent authorities in the member states will have the power to issue removal orders to the service providers, to remove terrorist content or disable access to it in all member states. The service providers will then have to remove or disable access to the content within one hour. Competent authorities in the member states where the service provider is established receive a right to scrutiny removal orders issued by other member states.

Cooperation with the service providers will be facilitated through the establishment of points of contact to facilitate the handling of removal orders.

It will be up to member states to lay down the rules on penalties in case of non-compliance with the legislation.

Specific measures by service providers

Hosting service providers exposed to terrorist content will need to take specific measures to address the misuse of their services and to protect their services against the dissemination of terrorist content. The draft regulation is very clear that the decision as to the choice of measures remains with the hosting service provider.

Service providers which have taken action against the dissemination of terrorist content in a given year will have to make publicly available transparency reports on the action taken during that period.

The proposed rules also ensure that the rights of ordinary users and businesses will be respected, including freedom of expression and information and freedom to conduct a business. This includes effective remedies for both users whose content has been removed and for service providers to submit a complaint.

Background

This proposal was submitted by the European Commission on 12 September 2018, following a call by EU leaders in June of that year.

The proposal builds on the work of the EU Internet Forum, launched in December 2015 as a framework of voluntary cooperation between member states and representatives of major internet companies to detect and address online terrorist content. Cooperation through this forum has not been sufficient to tackle the problem and on 1 March 2018, the Commission adopted a recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online.

Response to the terrorist threat and recent terrorist attacks in Europe (background information)

coronavirus

Initial DOD COVID-19 vaccinations under way across USEUCOM region

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The initial round of COVID-19 vaccinations are under way
for prioritized Department of Defense (DOD) personnel serving within the US European Command (USEUCOM) area of responsibility.

The DOD vaccination program began in Europe on 28 December when the Moderna
vaccine was administered to health-care workers serving at three US Army
medical treatment facilities located in Bavaria.

Three DOD medical facilities in the United Kingdom also began giving the
vaccine to patients this week. Additional DOD medical facilities in Germany
and the United Kingdom are scheduled to start inoculating personnel this
week. Next week, DOD clinics in Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal are
slated to receive their first shipment of the vaccine.

This initial phase of vaccine distribution within the USEUCOM region is an
important first step toward DOD's overall plan that encourages all personnel
to get vaccinated.

"Getting everybody immunized allows us to move back to, essentially, a sense
of normalcy in terms of how we interact with each other," said Brig. Gen.
Mark Thompson, Commanding General of Regional Health Command Europe.

Thompson said the initial phase will take about a month to complete because
of the 28-day time period between first dose and second dose of the Moderna
vaccine.

For more information, see USEUCOM's COVID-19 vaccine distribution webpage

About USEUCOM

US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operations
across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic
Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian
personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is
one of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered
in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.

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coronavirus

USEUCOM COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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Medical treatment facilities in Europe will receive the initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine at 28 locations in nine countries across the USEUCOM area of responsibility starting this week. Initial doses of the vaccine will be administered in accordance with the Department of Defense (DoD) phase-driven vaccine distribution plan to vaccinate US military and civilian personnel in a prioritized order.

After the initial distribution, and as more vaccine becomes available, additional personnel will have access to the vaccine."While the speed at which this vaccine was developed is unprecedented, the thorough research showing its safety and efficacy is compelling," said US Navy Captain Mark Kobelja, USEUCOM surgeon general. "I would encourage all eligible personnel to get this vaccine when it is offered."

Heath authorities encourage everyone's continued adherence with health protection requirements to wear appropriate masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands, and appropriate restriction of movement inaccordance with DoD and host nation regulations. The latest USEUCOM information about COVID-19 and the vaccine distribution plan can be found here.

About USEUCOM

US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for US military operationsacross Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and AtlanticOcean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilianpersonnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.

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Crime

European Audit Institutions pool their work on cybersecurity

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As the threat level for cybercrime and cyberattacks has been rising over recent years, auditors across the European Union have been paying increasing attention to the resilience of critical information systems and digital infrastructures. The Audit Compendium on cybersecurity, published today by the Contact Committee of EU supreme audit institutions (SAIs), provides an overview of their relevant audit work in this field.

Cyber incidents may be intentional or unintentional and range from the accidental disclosure of information to attacks on businesses and critical infrastructure, the theft of personal data, or even interference in democratic processes, including elections, and general disinformation campaigns to influence public debates. Cybersecurity was already critical for our societies before COVID-19 hit. But the consequences of the pandemic we are facing will further exacerbate cyber threats. Many business activities and public services have moved from physical offices to teleworking, while ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories have spread more than ever.

Protecting critical information systems and digital infrastructures against cyberattacks has thus become an ever-growing strategic challenge for the EU and its member states. The question is no longer whether cyberattacks will occur, but how and when they will occur. This concerns us all: individuals, businesses and public authorities.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been testing the economic and social fabric of our societies. Given our dependence on information technology, a ‘cyber crisis’ could well turn out to be the next pandemic“, said European Court of Auditors (ECA) President Klaus-Heiner Lehne. “Seeking digital autonomy and facing challenges posed by cyber threats and external disinformation campaigns will undoubtedly continue to be part of our daily lives and will remain on the political agenda in the next decade. It is therefore essential to raise awareness of recent audit findings on cybersecurity across the EU member states.”

European SAIs have therefore geared up their audit work on cybersecurity recently, with a particular focus on data protection, system readiness for cyberattacks, and the protection of essential public utilities systems. This has to be set in a context in which the EU is aiming to become the world’s safest digital environment. The European Commission and the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in fact, have just presented a new EU Cybersecurity Strategy, which aims to bolster Europe's collective resilience against cyber threats.

The Compendium published on 17 December provides background information on cybersecurity, main strategic initiatives and relevant legal bases in the EU. It also illustrates the main challenges the EU and its member states are facing, such as threats to individual EU citizens´ rights through misuse of personal data, the risk for institutions of not being able to deliver essential public services or facing limited performance following cyberattacks.

The Compendium draws on the results of audits carried out by the ECA and the SAIs of twelve EU member states: Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Finland and Sweden.

Background

This audit Compendium is a product of co-operation between the SAIs of the EU and its member states within the framework of the EU Contact Committee. It is designed to be a source of information for everyone interested in this important policy field. It is currently available in English on the EU Contact Committee website, and will later be available in other EU languages.

This is the third edition of the Contact Committee’s Audit Compendium. The first edition on Youth unemployment and the integration of young people into the labour market was published in June 2018. The second on Public health in the EU was issued in December 2019.

The Contact Committee is an autonomous, independent and non-political assembly of the heads of SAIs of the EU and its member states. It provides a forum for discussing and addressing matters of common interest relating to the EU. By strengthening dialogue and co-operation between its members, the Contact Committee contributes to an effective and independent external audit of EU policies and programmes

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