Statement meeting Vendôme Group
On 17 April 2023, Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius hosted a meeting of the Vendôme Group in Amsterdam and welcomed the Ministers of Justice of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Ministers appreciated their valuable cooperation during the tenth meeting of the Vendôme Group, which came together for the first time in Paris on 7 November 2018.
The Ministers first addressed the dilemmas in effectively handling extremists and terrorists from different kinds of ideological backgrounds that increasingly try to normalise and spread their theories by using legal means for illegal aims. Prompted by deep-seated distrust, anger and feelings of injustice, extremist and terrorists agitate against governments and institutions that represent authority. This creates a breeding ground for extreme ideologies that aim to cause disruption of our society. Online and offline examples illustrate the different ways in which extremists try to justify and incite violence by using toxic language to dehumanize enemies and disseminate hate speech and conspiracy theories.
The Ministers considered how open and uncritical discussion of anarchist-insurrectionist theory, xenophobic and often racist ideology and other conspiracy theories contribute to the social acceptance of violent and or criminal acts. In addition, the Ministers shared views on what could be effective to counter these developments, while safeguarding fundamental rights, such as the freedom of speech and right to demonstrate.
Another important topic that the Ministers discussed is the fight against organized crime. Throughout Europe organised crime is on the rise. It’s a threat against our society as a
whole, and specifically against professional groups such as lawyers, judges, public
prosecutors, journalists, politicians, and other protectors of the Rule of Law. International cooperation is vital as criminal organizations operate across borders and often operate in worldwide networks. Tackling organized crime is a fight on many fronts. During the meeting, the Ministers focused on digital and financial aspects.
The Ministers shared the view that access to digital evidence and the use in court proceedings is vital in the fight against organized crime. The encrypted messages obtained in the Ennetcom, SKY-ECC and Encrochat cases have provided many insights for the investigating authorities in the working methods and structures of criminal organizations. An important example is the insight that the worldwide narcotics trade is almost entirely being financed by a system of criminal underground banking.. Challenges to access digital data, such as the processing of data in third countries, encryption and the limited preservation of data should be addressed to effectively fight organized crime while respecting fundamental rights and ensuring the security of communications. In addition, the Ministers agreed that cooperation between their countries is necessary to tackle the system of criminal underground banking..
Lastly, the Ministers considered the situation in Ukraine, more than a year after the Russian invasion. A brutal violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. The consequences for Ukraine are devastating. The EU continues to stand together to support Ukraine in different forms. The Ministers condemned the atrocities committed on Ukrainian territory and emphasized that those responsible must be held accountable for their acts. The Ministers discussed the different initiatives to ensure accountability and increase efficiency in freezing and possibly confiscating Russian assets by using all cooperation instruments and tools existing at EU level. In that respect, the Ministers also looked ahead to the Diplomatic Conference on Mutual Legal Assistance taking place from 15 – 26 May 2023 in Ljubljana. This conference aims at concluding a Convention facilitating better practical cooperation between States investigating and prosecuting international crimes.