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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of November 15, 2021

Week of Monday, November 15, 2021 | Issue 51

Austin Straniere, Federica Calissano, Martyna Dobrowolska, EUCOM Team


EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate[1]


Date: November 20, 2021

Location: Vienna, Austria

Parties involved: Austrian government; Austrian National Police; EU

The event: On Saturday, November 20, 2021, thousands of Austrians protested in Vienna after the government introduced a nationwide lockdown starting Monday, November 22, 2021,, and have made vaccines mandatory starting February 2022.[2] Other European countries, such as Germany, Croatia, France, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands, followed Austria’s example to introduce another round of COVID-19 related lockdowns, fuelling anger against governments and healthcare institutions.[3]

The implications:

  • With the new lockdown in place, political polarization will likely increase due to the flow of contradictory information on the methods of fighting COVID-19. This will likely divide the population on the vaccine's effectiveness, between those who believe it is essential to fight the pandemic, and those who believe the vaccine harms people’s health.

  • The decision to impose new restrictions will also likely increase levels of criticism against the government for not undertaking effective measures already. This behavior will likely fuel misinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories, which will likely spread on social media platforms, very likely increasing feelings of distrust towards governments and healthcare institutions across Europe. To obtain greater national and international attention, and show their discontent with the newly imposed COVID-19 restrictions, anti-vaccine protests will likely turn violent. It is also likely that state representatives and medical personnel will become a direct target of these groups.

Date: November 15, 2021

Location: Rome, Italy; Turin, Italy

Parties involved: Turin Police; Italian citizens; Medical and media figures; Italian Prime Minister (PM) Mario Draghi

The event: On Monday, November 15, 2021, Italian Police conducted searches across Italy in association with 17 anti-vaccine activists allegedly involved with a Telegram chat. These chats contained thousands of members organizing protests against Italy’s health pass, which requires all community members to be vaccinated to dine indoors, visit museums, or use public transportation. The chats were also used as an outlet to incite violence against government members, including Italian PM Mario Draghi, and medical and media figures in support of COVID-19 restrictions. The police discovered weapons and flammable acid in the homes of all 17 anti-vaccine activists who were identified from the Telegram chats.[4]

The implications:

  • The formation of the Telegram chat almost certainly imposes significant safety and security risks to Italian citizens and government members. It is likely that Telegram chat members will target buildings with high target populations, such as city centers, and coordinate attacks on government buildings like police stations, government offices, and government facilities. Members of anti-vaccine groups are likely to target police, government officials, media, and medical personnel.

  • Since the Telegram chat revealed thousands of anti-vaccine supporters, they are likely to have high attendance numbers during protests and demonstrations, likely leading to violent encounters. Violence between protestors and law enforcement will almost certainly cause damage to public property, injuries to police, protesters, and citizens likely resulting in heightened tensions between protesters and police.

Date: November 18, 2021

Location: Poland-Belarus Border

Parties involved: Polish Government; Belarusian Government; Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko; Belarusian Border Officials; Polish Border Officials; Migrants; EU

The event: ​​During the last few months, hundreds of migrants have tried to enter Poland through the border with Belarus; the sudden migrant influx quickly escalated into a crisis.[5] The EU accused Belarus of helping migrants cross the borders with Poland, allegedly in response to EU sanctions imposed against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for his governmental actions that violated human rights, which has left over eight people dead.[6] Following a clash with the Polish border officials, Belarus relocated migrants at the Poland-Belarus border to a warehouse away from the frontier, while hundreds of migrants took a repatriation flight back to Iraq.[7]

The implications:

  • Tensions at the Poland-Belarus border demonstrate the EU is likely involved in hybrid warfare. Migrants are likely strategically utilized by the Belarusan government as a means to abrogate sanctions imposed on the country. If EU member states are unable to reach an agreement on how to tackle this situation, it is likely the border crisis will escalate to an armed conflict, likely leading citizens to lose trust in the EU for not being able to fulfill basic security needs.

  • The arrival of migrants is very likely to challenge the EU's integrity and cohesion. Member States will likely become divided on issues as to who bears the responsibility to assist migrants. Uncontrolled migration is also likely to challenge the EU’s security as members of terrorist groups will be more likely to infiltrate Europe and plan attacks against EU bodies.

  • Terrorists will likely target EU institutions, further polarizing the issues of the migrant crisis. This is likely to add to the general dissatisfaction of Belarusian citizens, making them feel unrepresented by their governments, which will likely spark demonstrations and protests against Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. Protests are highly likely to escalate to violence between citizens and law enforcement, with a roughly even chance that citizens of Belarus will migrate to other countries if they continue to feel dissatisfied with their government.

  • It is likely that the migrant crisis will exacerbate human rights violations, with security officials ignoring migrant health concerns, including both their mental and physical wellbeing. This will likely harm global relations, such as not receiving assistance from the EU, which will likely affect Belarusian trading markets. The border crisis is also likely to harm the tourism economy as citizens are less likely to travel to Poland and/or Belarus.

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[1]EU Digital COVID Certificate” by European Commission licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Tens of thousands protest in Vienna against Austria’s Covid restrictions, The Guardian, November 2021, https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/20/austria-covid-restrictions-vienna-protests

[3] Covid: Austria back in lockdown as protests rock Europe, BBC, November 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59369488

[4] Italy: Police move against violent anti-vaccine activists, The Washington Post, November 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/italy-police-move-against-violent-anti-vaccine-activists/2021/11/15/8e9fa6fe-45fd-11ec-beca-3cc7103bd814_story.html

[5] Poland warns of further large migrant clashes on Belarus border, Reuters, November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-fears-major-incident-migrants-belarus-head-border-2021-11-08/

[6] EU to keep fighting Belarus’s “weaponization” of migrants, AP News, October 2021, https://apnews.com/article/immigration-middle-east-poland-migration-belarus-79b070bf8899e393f21d9a6fa1450919

[7] Belarus clears migrant camp at border with EU as crisis with West eases, Reuters, November 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/more-migrants-try-enter-poland-belarus-east-west-standoff-2021-11-18/

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