VDD holds meeting of Counterterrorism Centre expert advisory council

On 17 December VDD organized the meeting of Counterterrorism Centre expert advisory council during which VDD’s counterterrorism experts together with experts from other fields discussed the latest terrorism threat trends in Europe and Latvia as well as the activities which have been carried out in the counterterrorism field in 2021 and the priorities for the next year.

VDD’s counterterrorism experts presented the latest terrorism threat trends in Europe and Latvia and shared their conclusions about the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. VDD holds the opinion that the difficult circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the heightened pressure has fostered the increase in radicalization trends in some particular groups of society, especially among those who deny the existence of Covid-19 and are against the vaccination. One of the factors which enhances radicalization are the narratives of some public persons and organizations aimed against the vaccination and the introduced restrictions.

Also the situation at Latvia-Belarus border was discussed during the meeting. As a result of Belarus regime’s activities more than 400 third country citizens crossed Latvian border in 2021. Most of them came from the so-called terrorism risk countries. In order to timely identify and prevent risks to the national security VDD closely cooperated with other institutions and carried out in-depth vetting of persons who had illegally crossed the Latvian border.

Covid-19 pandemic did not have a significant impact on VDD’s work in counterterrorism field. Continuing the development of Latvia’s counterterrorism system in 2021 VDD paid particular attention to the response capabilities of the responsible institutions by improving several procedures and regulations which define the applicable measures in case of terrorism threats of various nature. VDD updated the action plans "Ship"1, "Plane"2  and "Object"3, as well as developed a new counterterrorism plan "Crowd"4  for the situations when a terrorist attack has been carried out at a mass gathering site.

Likewise VDD updated the instruction of the Cabinet of Ministers for the cases when terrorism or piracy threats directed against Latvian nationals or Latvian ships have been established, by specifying cooperation mechanisms on a national and international level.5

In Autumn 2021 VDD organized a workshop and the so-called tabletop exercise for the regional units of emergency services in Vidzeme, thus continuing the efforts to strengthen the response capabilities of the responsible services not only in the capital but also in regions. Tabletop exercise involved testing of services’ responses during a terrorist attack in a public event.

In 2021 VDD actively continued the work towards strengthening the terrorism risk object security by examining the critical infrastructure and mass gathering sites and giving recommendations to the security personnel about the necessary improvements of security measures.

VDD also continued to improve the Aircraft passenger data register in order to be able to establish and prevent terrorism crimes or other serious crimes by using the collected data about flights and their passengers. During the Covid-19 pandemic the register was useful also for establishing the contact persons of those who had been infected with Covid-19 virus and limiting the spread of it.

VDD Counterterrorism Centre expert advisory council is the coordinating and consulting institution whose aim is to improve the cooperation of VDD and state and municipal institutions within the counterterrorism field in order to ensure the preparedness to effectively prevent terrorism threats and to eliminate their consequences. The representatives of the following institutions take part in the advisory council: Constitution Protection Bureau, Defence Intelligence and Security Service, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prosecutor General’s Office, Financial Intelligence Unit, National Armed Forces, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Financial and Capital Market Commission.

Information prepared by VDD

1 Cabinet of Ministers Order of 7 September 2021 No. 641 "Ship, Port and Brush Hazard Action Plan (Counterterrorism Plan "Ship")";
2 Cabinet of Ministers Order of 7 September 2021 No. 640 "Action Plan in the Event of Threats to Civil Aviation Aircrafts and Facilities (Counterterrorism Plan "Plane")";
3 Cabinet of Ministers Order of 7 September 2021 No. 638 "Action Plan in the Event of Threats to Terrestrial Oobjects (Counterterrorism Plan "Object")";
4 Cabinet of Ministers Order of 7 September 2021 No. 639 "Action Plan in the Event of Terrorist Attacks (Counterterrorism Plan "Crowd")";
5 Cabinet of Ministers Instruction No. 11 of 16 November 2021 "Instruction on Action in Cases when Terrorist or Piracy Threats are Directed Against Latvian Ships or Citizens in International or Other Waters".