Proposed anti-terrorism centre raises issue of ineffective legislation

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan introduced plans for the Czech Republic to establish an anti-terrorism centre. Police and intelligence services have been advocating such a move for months, saying that there needs to be a centralized unit in this country working to fight terrorism. Such a centre would be charged with collecting and sorting information about terrorism-related issues, and communicating with partners abroad to ensure an effective exchange of information. Yet the idea hasn't been received with much enthusiasm from leading politicians. Jana Hybaskova, a Czech MEP, explains how she views the possibility of establishing an anti-terrorism centre in the Czech Republic, and what steps the country needs to take to fight terrorism effectively:

"The question of establishing an anti-terrorist centre in the Czech Republic is of course a very structurally complex and tricky one. The fact is that the Czech Republic today is not really ready for counter-terrorism. We need many things: first of all we need legislative changes, secondly we need to build new structures, and thirdly we need to improve relations between the justice system and the police system, and last but not least, we need a lot of parliamentary legislative control over the processes. Therefore, establishing the centre is reasonable, if it goes together with all the other steps."

"I would not say that we need a new group of people who will somehow replace existing structures and create a new centre. What I rather assume is that we have to ask the current responsible people from the presidium of Czech police, from the financial police, from the [intelligence] services and from the Ministry of Interior, and of course the Ministry of Defense as well, to get together and to create what is called security protocol for the exchange of proper information. This means that it should be clear who reports what sort of information to whom, then who is responsible for not sharing the information. Thirdly, we really need to accommodate already existing EU anti-terrorist legislation into our legal system. Without having the proper legal tools, this centre would not enhance the situation as much as we would like."

What exactly is it that the Czech legislation is missing at the international level?

"There are three key issues. The first key issue is the Czech penal code which should be transformed into a more modern version, and it's suffering from a lack of political will of the Czech parliament. Therefore, unfortunately, any further amendments to the penal code is not exactly what is necessary. What is necessary as a first step—and we are the last European country without this adaptation—is to have penal responsibility apply to a legal person. Because we have a large community of foreigners living in the Czech Republic, and most of them are actually registered as legal persons, not as physical persons. And if we don't have penal responsibility in place, then the whole penal code is in real trouble—this is the first point. The second point is that we don't have a full harmonization of the money laundering EU recommendation from the year 2001, which is very important and all other countries already have full harmonization. We do not. The third problem is the law concerning lotteries, casinos and other games, which is not in accordance with EU legislation."

Prague houses several targets of possible interest to international terrorists. Why in your opinion are Czech politicians reacting slowly to this reality?

"Unfortunately, I assume that there are two problems. The first one is a lack of political will, which is quite clearly connected with the amount of, let's say, unidentified financial resources and financing of political parties. The first comes from the privatization arranged at the beginning of the 1990s, and the second comes from the privatization wave of the second half of the 1990s, so it puts together the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Czech Social Democrats and they of course would like to cover all these misgivings. The second reason is that Czech politicians are not well-aware of how the mechanism functions, that actually, for instance, the central banking registry is working automatically so it's offering higher protection of legal and physical persons than the direct exchange of information between [intelligence] services, police and banks. But Czech politicians are always scared by the fact that the legal factor will lead to misuse of information. But exactly what is needed (and this should of course also be the aim of an anti-terrorist centre) is to diminish the legal factor and to diminish the personal and human factor which can lead to leaks of information."