The Democratic Legitimacy of EU Counter-Terrorism Policing
: Challenges for Parliamentary and Judicial Scrutiny

  • Claudia Hillebrand

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the challenges posed to democratic legitimacy by current practices of EU counter-terrorism policing. It is concerned with the increasing amount of international cooperation between police and, to a lesser extent, intelligence actors in this field and analyses how far traditional mechanisms of accountability and oversight are keeping up with this development. For this purpose, the thesis develops a model of democratic legitimacy for the field of international counter-terrorism co-operation. The EU – like its Member States – understands itself to be based on principles of representative liberal democracy and the model follows roughly this idea by identifying parliamentary and judicial scrutiny as key instruments to ensure ‘democratic’ counter-terrorism actions and the protection of human rights.

Drawing on the literature on security networks, it is proposed that current forms of counterterrorism policing under the EU’s umbrella should be understood as networks which are defined as sets of expert institutional nodes or individual agents from at least two countries that are interconnected in order to authorize and/or provide security with regard to counter-terrorism for the benefit of the network participants or external ‘clients’. The empirical focus of this thesis is on the European Police Office (Europol) which provides a key example in which to explore the emergence and current status quo of EU counter-terrorism policing. In addition, debates about the EUUS exchange of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, the so-called Prüm arrangements concerning intensified counter-terrorism co-operation in the EU, the freezing of terrorist funds as well as European involvement in the CIA’s so-called extraordinary rendition campaign are interwoven into this discussion. The thesis concludes that the EU is an emerging counter-terrorism actor, but that – for the time being – its policies and actions are insufficiently subject to parliamentary and judicial scrutiny. Challenges arise, in particular, from the international nature of counter-terrorism networks, their loose structure, the variety of actors involved and the strengthened co-operation between police and intelligence authorities.
Date of Award10 Jun 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsMarie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
SupervisorLeonard Scott (Supervisor) & Alistair Shepherd (Supervisor)

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