Codename TREVI. Terrorismusbekämpfung und die Anfänge einer europäischen Innenpolitik in den 1970er Jahren

Oberloskamp, Eva
Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte 111
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€ 39,95
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Laura Di Fabio, University of Siena

“Codename TREVI” by Eva Oberloskamp of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich1, provides an exemplary account of the history of counterterrorism politics in Europe. As the title suggests, it is concerned with cooperation between European states throughout the 1970s in the face of national and international terrorism and organised crime. However, the scope of the study goes beyond that. Oberloskamp analyses the meetings of European security experts in the so-called “Terrorisme, Radicalisme, Extrémisme, Violence Internationale” (TREVI) groups, and examines the role of this cooperation in the evolution of a European internal security policy. Therefore, the value of this research is that the author describes the rather pragmatic responses to terrorism in the 1970s with special regard to political and judicial impacts. The nexus between action taken at the national and international levels is perfectly taken into account, as exemplified in the trans-governmental experts-network (pp. 174–179).

The volume is divided into eight chapters, where the author’s methodology is well developed. Oberloskamp employs the political science terms “policy” for the contents, “politics” for the processes, and “polity” for the structures, which together compose the frame of counterterrorism-cooperation between European states. The content dimension (policy) refers to political goals, interests negotiated, competitions and motivations determined by diverse actors. The procedural dimension (politics) deals with decision-making processes in the political sphere at national and European levels. It is based on an impressive body of primary sources that underline the transnational approach of the study. Oberloskamp consulted materials available at the Archives Nationales (Paris/Fontainebleau), the British National Archives in London, the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz and the Parlamentsarchiv (BT_PA) and the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts (PAAA) in Berlin.

The introduction acquaints the reader with the problems, their historical setting and the historiographical methodology. The aim of the study is to demonstrate that political and pragmatic cooperation at the TREVI-Conferences formed the basis from which a “European internal policy” developed (p. 2).2 The second and third chapters analyse the attack at the 1972 Olympic games and its crucial importance for the expansion of security cooperation between France and West Germany. The third section presents the main actors; the West German Ministry of the Interior and its 1970s foreign policy and the Federal Foreign Office and its role within the United Nations. Oberloskamp also examines the cooperation of German-French working groups, their activities and organisation. She traces how the establishment of a Franco-German bilateral cooperation soon became the core of further European responses to terrorism. She focusses also on the cooperation of experts and institutions, and, finally, on the creation and strengthening of common strategies at European and international level. In the fourth chapter Oberloskamp develops the history of the TREVI conferences from the perspective of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and explores the multiple levels of international cooperation on terrorism and their judicial aspects. Chapter Five offers a detailed overview of the concrete results obtained by the TREVI groups in the 1970s, which resulted in constant effort to strengthen the cooperation between national security agencies, primarily focussing on the exchange of information and technical know-how gained from national experiences.

The sixth chapter identifies a series of structural difficulties in the early TREVI cooperation, due to the different policy measures and political dimensions of each European country. Intergovernmental cooperation on counterterrorism and homeland security faced contradictions regarding the need to exchange data and sensitive information between police forces and the aim of reducing bilateral and multilateral bureaucracy procedures, argues Oberloskamp. Regarding the “polity” dimension, she analyses the legal grounds of the cooperation and elements of political culture, meanings, perceptions, values and discourses that conditioned the actors’ behaviour. She also emphasises how this context had repercussions on the political spheres of participating states.

The last chapter focuses on the role actors played in a democratic system. On this issue it is interesting how the concept of democratic accountability supports the conclusions. Oberloskamp argues that the founding period of the TREVI conferences was characterised by deficits in democracy and accountability (pp. 254–264). The intergovernmental coordination mechanisms oscillated between two levels: the conference work was carried out by ministers, whilst the agenda-setting and decision-making processes were promoted and determined by security officials and experts. One of the conference aims was to bridge the gap between both levels. However, particularly in the bottom-up dynamics, Oberloskamp recognises that democratic accountability was a problematic. The legal framework for the international exchange of information was not entirely put to use, mainly because, in this sector, secrecy always prevailed over transparency. Furthermore, the critical context of national and international terrorism in Europe enhanced the specialisation of policies and fostered the impact of security experts on national policies. The importance of electronic data and information exchange between police agencies certainly represents one of the most relevant topics examined by Oberloskamp (pp. 133–150). The discretionary practices of the security activities of police agencies illustrates the critical issue of democratic control by the supranational European agencies, national parliaments and public opinion.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, “Codename TREVI” refers to major historical, sociological and political international studies dedicated to European integration and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism: Wilhelm Knelangen, Wehner Ruth, Neil Walker, Didier Bigo, Larry Frohman, to name but a few.3 Such an approach, however, leaves less space for the contextualisation of European cooperation in its national histories. As the author focusses on the West German perspective as the point of departure, perhaps too little has been said about other states involved in the cooperation (France and Great Britain). Perhaps a section dedicated to the peculiar historical and political contexts of the two countries would help the reader understand some crucial steps (e.g. refer to paragraph 6.3, “Kulturelle und begriffliche Differenzen”). Nevertheless, despite the centrality of Franco-German relations – the beating heart of the European Integration processes and the counterterrorism cooperation in Europe – the book appears dynamic and keeps a pleasant balance.

In conclusion, the volume reflects on the current international arena. The long-term perspective of counterterrorism during the 1970s is emphasised, its role regarding the war against terrorism today and the nexus between democracy and violence, freedom and security. These fundamental changes created the starting point for the extensive information networks of the European police forces, implemented today within the frameworks of Europol and Schengen (pp. 275–279).

1 The volume is part of Eva Oberkamp’s postdoctoral research funded by Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin. The title of this research is: „Terrorismusbekämpfung als europäisches Problem. Die Bundesrepublik und die Europäisierung der ‚Inneren Sicherheit‘ in den 1970er Jahren“, URL: (15.11.2017).
2 Oberloskamp quotes the Minister of the Interior Werner Maihofer.
3 Wilhelm Knelangen, Das Politikfeld innere Sicherheit im Integrationsprozess. Die Entstehung einer europäischen Politik der inneren Sicherheit, Opladen 2001; Wehner Ruth, Europäische Zusammenarbeit bei der polizeilichen Terrorismusbekämpfung aus rechtlicher Sicht. Aufgezeigt am Beispiel der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Baden-Baden 1993; Neil Walker, The Accountability of European Police Institutions, in: European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 1 (1993), pp. 34–52; Didier Bigo, Polices en réseaux: l’expérience européenne, Paris 1996; Larry Frohman, Datenschutz, the Defense of Law, and the Debate over Precautionary Surveillance. The Reform of Police Law and the Changing Parameters of State Action in West Germany, in: German Studies Review 38 (2015), pp. 307–327.