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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of December 20, 2021

Week of Monday, December 20, 2021 | Issue 56

Pètra van de Gevel, Federica Calissano, Austin Straniere, EUCOM Team


Entrance to the building of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal[1]


Date: December 22, 2021

Location: Aegean Sea, Greece

Parties involved: Greek Coast Guard; Iraqi refugees; Criminal networks; European law enforcement; European countries; Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi

The event: A vessel that was smuggling refugees from Iraq had engine failure and began to sink in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. The Greek, or Hellenic, Coast Guard conducted an operation to rescue the survivors from the ship which was believed to have been carrying 32 to 50 Iraqi refugees. A navy frigate, four coast guard vessels, eight merchant ships, three smaller private vessels, three military helicopters, and a military transport plane found only 12 survivors with three confirmed dead. All other refugees are classified as missing.[2] Iraq has been experiencing increasing political instability following the assassination attempt of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in November 2021.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • It is almost certain that the refugees are attempting to flee Iraq due to the increasing political instability following the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi. European countries will very likely need to coordinate maritime efforts to assist refugees in the migration from their country to reduce the risk of more refugees dying at sea.

  • Boat owners, some of which are almost certainly involved in criminal networks, very likely get paid high amounts of money by refugees to transport them to Europe. This money is very likely used by these criminal networks to purchase illegal weapons and drugs. The illegal smuggling of refugees will likely increase the risks of a humanitarian crisis in Europe as refugees will likely start working for these criminal networks as they will likely face difficulties in obtaining jobs since they very likely do not speak the language and will likely be racially stereotyped. Consequently, illegal migration from Iraq into European countries will likely strengthen criminal networks.

Date: December 22, 2021

Location: European Commission Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium

Parties involved: European Commission; Poland Constitutional Tribunal; EU; Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki; Polish population

The event: The European Commission launched legal action against Poland after a Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling challenged the primacy of EU law. The Commission defined the Polish ruling as a breach of European principles of autonomy, primacy, and effectiveness. The EU’s relationship with Poland has been deteriorating in 2021 as several of Poland’s court rulings have found fundamental elements of EU law to be incompatible with Poland’s constitution, threatening EU law’s supremacy. Poland benefits from EU funding but has been fined €1 million EUR per day for failing to comply with an EU court decision around ​​judicial impartiality in 2021. The Commission is now considering the adoption of the financial conditionality mechanism, which allows the EU to withhold financial aid from its budget to Member States if they are non-compliant with EU laws.[4] Poland has struggled to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused 794 deaths on December 29, 2021.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The European Commission will very likely leverage the EU’s financial assistance to Poland during discussions about Poland’s recent court rulings as a stoppage in funds will very likely negatively impact Poland’s flailing economy, which has almost certainly been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission will likely move towards the conditionality mechanism, which will likely increase the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s compliance with EU general principles of autonomy and primacy.

  • There is a roughly even chance that EU’s legal actions against Poland’s court rulings will lead to anti-EU rhetoric sentiments in Poland, likely strengthening the country’s desire to leave the EU. Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki will likely portray the EU in a negative light in Poland by persuading the population that the EU is imposing liberal and Western ideologies on the country. There is a roughly even chance that this will create anti-EU sentiments among the Polish population as they will likely be convinced that the EU is trying to hinder Poland’s sovereignty. Tensions between Poland and the EU will almost certainly increase, likely resulting in the EU significantly decreasing its financial aid to Poland, which will likely negatively impact Poland's economy.

Date: December 23, 2021

Location: Albania

Parties involved: Albanian government; Albanian citizens; Albanian Internal Revenue Services; Albanian Socialist Party; Albanian Democratic Party; WhatsApp; Microsoft Excel; Albanian intelligence and defense services; Albanian Parliament; Cyber criminals; Black market

The event: Personal data, such as names, Albanian national ID card numbers, monthly salaries, and employment details of 637,138 Albanian citizens have been leaked through a Microsoft Excel file that has been circulating on WhatsApp. The file is suspected to have come from the Albanian Internal Revenue Services office. This is the second data breach in 2021 following the leak of 910,000 Albanians’ data to the ruling Albanian Socialist Party for use in the electoral campaign in April 2021.[6] The Albanian Democratic Party has accused the government of not being able to protect the private data of Albanian citizens and blamed the government for the weak cyber-security infrastructure.[7]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The data leak will very likely threaten Albania’s national security as the leaks will likely impact the work of Albanian intelligence and defense services. Malicious foreign actors will very likely use the leaked data to identify Albanian citizens that work in the security sector and very likely blackmail employees or send malicious spyware via emails to them to obtain classified information.

  • Albanian citizens will very likely become targets of identity theft as the leaked data can be used by cyber criminals. The data will likely be used to gain access to private information, such as bank details of Albanian citizens, posing a financial and personal security threat to citizens.

  • The data leaks will very likely result in Albanian citizens losing trust in public institutions as they will likely feel that the government is unable to protect their personal data. This will likely decrease the legitimacy of public institutions such as the Albanian Internal Revenue Services in the eyes of the population.

  • Opposition parties and the Albanian population will very likely believe that the government is responsible for the data leaks due to the party's involvement in a similar incident in April 2021. The Democratic Albanian Party will very likely continue to capitalize on the leaks by pointing out the risks the leaks pose to national security and the private life of Albanian citizens. The Democratic Albanian Party will very likely highlight the weakness of Albania's cyber-security infrastructure and question the government’s ability to protect the private information of Albanian citizens, likely weakening the population’s support of the government.

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[1]Entrance to the building of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal” by Adrian Grycuk licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Three dead, dozens missing as refugee boat sinks off Greek coast, Al Jazeera, December 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/22/one-dead-dozens-missing-as-refugee-boat-sinks-off-greek-coast

[3] Assassination Attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, The Organization for World Peace, November 2021, https://theowp.org/assassination-attempt-on-iraqi-prime-minister-mustafa-al-kadhimi/

[4] AG: Regulation on Conditionality Mechanism Is Legally Sound and Compatible with EU Treaties, Eucrim, December 2021, https://eucrim.eu/news/ag-regulation-on-conditionality-mechanism-is-legally-sound-and-compatible-with-eu-treaties/

[5] Poland reports highest number of COVID-related deaths in fourth wave, Reuters, December 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/poland-reports-highest-daily-number-covid-related-deaths-fourth-wave-2021-12-29/

[6] Personal data including salaries of over 600,000 Albanians leaked, Euractiv, December 2021, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/short_news/personal-data-including-salaries-of-over-600000-albanians-leaked/

[7] Massive Data Leaks in Albania Pose Public Security Question, Balkan Insight, December 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/12/23/massive-data-leaks-in-albania-pose-public-security-question/

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