Executive Vice-President Schinas at the Security Union Package press conference

Executive Vice-President Schinas at the Security Union Package press conference

On 9 December 2020, Executive Vice-President Schinas of the European Commission made the following remarks at the Security Union Package press conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The recent brutal attacks in France and Austria have served as a sharp reminder that the threat from terrorism is real, enduring and that that we remain vulnerable despite numerous actions taken already to deal with the problem.

This calls for a renewed and sustained commitment to working together to counter the threat.

It calls for unity in face of terrorism, which seeks to divide.

Today, we are presenting a set of proposal that aims to show clearly that we will work to increase the maximum our resilience, preparedness and our response capacity.

The von der Leyen Commission has demonstrated with concrete actions in the first year of its mandate that our Security Union is operational and ambitious.

The Security Union progress report adopted today is the first since we presented the new Security Strategy in July and underlines that we need continued political and operational efforts by EU institutions and national authorities to implement agreed decisions.

We are calling on Member States to step up their work to ensure there are no gaps or delays in how we apply key security instruments such as EU rules on combating terrorism, firearms and on fighting money laundering and terrorist financing.

There are areas where the effort must become much more intense. It is quite unbelievable that 25 Member States (25!) still have not properly or fully implemented the new EU rules on firearms from 2017 and that we have had to open infringement proceedings. 

Let me share a few concrete examples from the report that demonstrate steady progress but also new measures: we have been building on lessons learnt form the COVID 19 pandemic as demonstrated in the security elements of our Health Union Communication; we continued the implementation of the security toolbox for 5G; we adopted a Strategy to fight against child sexual abuse and an Action Plan against terrorist financing and money laundering; we established the new European Financial and Economic Crime Centre in Europol; and we even addressed the shortage of security skills in our European Skills Agenda.

Europe has been busy maintaining its Security Union and the roadmap of actions adopted with the report shows how we intend to continue doing so including with our global partners as demonstrated in our narrative regarding the EU-US agenda last week.

Today, we also come forward with two concrete actions addressing current realities: the new Counter Terrorism Agenda and a proposal to strengthen the mandate of Europol.

Originally intended for next year, our President had the foresight to advance our work on the Counter terrorism Agenda in the knowledge that we cannot wait to show – beyond a shadow of a doubt – the robustness of our response.

There are many new measures presented in today’s Agenda, but allow me to focus on two important strands of work where we are putting a renewed focus: countering radicalisation and protecting public spaces.

Firstly, countering radicalisation.

Terrorist attacks are an assault on our security as well as our values.

But our response cannot be to sidestep those values. Instead, we must double down on them.

Because the inclusive and rights-based foundations of our Union are our strongest protection against the threat of terrorism.

It is by building inclusive, tolerant societies where everyone can find their place that we will reduce the draw of extremist narratives.

This is where our Action Plan on integration and inclusion that we presented to you last month comes in, with helping to build community resilience.

We will also be building on the work of our Radicalisation Awareness Network to help stem radicalisation before it has a chance to take root. We will do so by facilitating collaboration among schools, communities – including faith groups – , youth workers, social workers and civil society organisations.

And we will be strengthening preventive action in prisons, paying specific attention to the rehabilitation and reintegration of radical inmates, including after their release.

Lastly, with our proposals on Terrorist Content Online, the future Digital Services Act and our work through the EU Internet Forum, we will be taking robust action to purge the internet of illegal, terrorist content and help ensure extremist ideologies are unable to disseminate their messages online.

It is to our immense credit that our education, health and welfare systems are inclusive by nature and it is by building on that strength that we will take away the appeal of extremism.

But we also have to be clear that those inclusive systems come pact and parcel with acceptance of the values that underpin them.

The European way of life is not optional and we must do all in our power to prevent those that seek to undo undermine it.

Ce qui m’amène au second point que je voulais mettre en évidence aujourd’hui: pour protéger nos concitoyens et leur mode de vie, nous devons également réduire les vulnérabilités qui peuvent être exploitées ou ciblées par les terroristes.  

Le mode opératoire des terroristes est en constante évolution. Cependant, l’une des principales tendances de ces dernières années est le fait de prendre pour cible les espaces publics, les espaces de rencontre et les espaces de rassemblement.

Ces lieux doivent rester des endroits où nous nous sentons à l’aise pour nous rassembler. C’est pourquoi nous mettons l’accent dans nos propositions sur une planification urbaine axée sur la sécurité. 

La ville de Nice offre un modèle pertinent à ce titre. La Promenade est protégée, entre autres, par un alignement de palmiers, qui sont en réalité plus qu’une simple décoration : ils empêchent en fait les véhicules de foncer dans les foules, par exemple lors de rassemblements sur la plage pour regarder les feux d’artifice, comme ce fut malheureusement le cas lors de l’attentat du 14 juillet 2016.

C’est ce genre de projets que nous voulons promouvoir et soutenir avec des fonds européens. Nous allons également investir dans des projets qui aident à exploiter le potentiel de sécurité des nouvelles technologies, qui peuvent aider à identifier des objets comme des bagages abandonnés ou des comportements suspects, et qui peuvent donc être très utiles pour détecter les menaces dans les lieux bondés.

Nous ne savons que trop bien que lorsqu’il s’agit d’espaces publics, les réponses doivent être locales. C’est pourquoi, dans le cadre de ce travail, nous proposerons un Engagement de l’UE en matière de sécurité et de résilience urbaine, qui définira les principes et objectifs de base pour les autorités locales dans ces domaines.

Réduire les vulnérabilités signifie également protéger les infrastructures critiques qui sont essentielles au fonctionnement de nos sociétés et de notre économie. C’est pourquoi, la semaine prochaine, je reviendrai ici pour vous présenter de nouvelles propositions visant à garantir que les opérations des services essentiels tels que les plateformes de transport, les stations d’énergie, les infrastructures de santé et les installations de traitement de l’eau soient résilientes et suffisamment préparés afin de prévenir et limiter les dysfonctionnements, et assurer la reprise des activités après coup. 

Ylva will go into further detail on the other measures in the Agenda, including one where we are immediately turning words into action with a reform of Europol, but I wanted to highlight these two important points.

Let me then conclude by reminding that we are not starting from scratch with our work on counter terrorism.

Over the last two decades, European cooperation on advanced in leaps and bounds. We now have extensive information-sharing networks, supported by increasingly interoperable EU databases as well as enhanced police and judicial cooperation. This helps us connect the dots across borders. We have also equipped ourselves with powerful tools to deny terrorists the means to act, such as in the areas of firearms, explosives precursors, terrorism financing and criminalising travel for terrorist purposes.

This is all very well but these instruments – however strong – will do no one any good unless they are effectively and consistently implemented in practice.

This is why at the start of this Commission I committed to placing a relentless emphasis on implementation.

I’ll now hand the floor to Ylva who will also say more on the new mandate of Europol proposed by the Commission today; allow me only a couple of words on that point.

Europol is a true example of where the EU is stronger by pooling its resources and forces together; its continuous daily successes in countering crime, its pioneering methods in tackling cybercrime and its effective police cooperation demonstrated by the arrest of hundreds of criminals across the world are proof of its added value.

We need to continue investing in this Agency and I hope that the European Parliament and Council will adopt this proposal with the urgency it merits; we need Europol; equipped with the right tools to continue its successful work and to also take it to those areas where the EU needs it the most.

Thank you.

Source : Not checked against delivery  Security Union Package press conference (europa.eu)

Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/terrorism-terrorists-terror-violent-2654452/

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