Parliamentary Briefing : The fight against terrorism

Parliamentary Briefing : The fight against terrorism

With rising cases of terrorism in the European Union the EPRS recently provided members of the European Parliament with a briefing on the subject. This briefing is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Faced with a growing international terrorist threat, the European Union (EU) is playing an ever more ambitious role in counter-terrorism. Even though primary responsibility for combating crime and ensuring security lies with the Member States, the EU provides cooperation, coordination and (to some extent) harmonisation tools, as well as financial support, to address this borderless phenomenon. Moreover, the assumption that there is a connection between development and stability, as well as between internal and external security, has come to shape EU action beyond its own borders. EU spending in the area of counter-terrorism has increased over the years and is set to grow in the future, to allow for better cooperation between national law enforcement authorities and enhanced support by the EU bodies in charge of security, such as Europol and eu-LISA. Financing for cooperation with third countries has also increased, including through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

The many new rules and instruments that have been adopted since 2014 range from harmonising definitions of terrorist offences and sanctions, and sharing information and data, to protecting borders, countering terrorist financing, and regulating firearms. To evaluate the efficiency of the existing tools and identify gaps and possible ways forward, the European Parliament set up a Special Committee on Terrorism (TERR), which delivered its report in November 2018. TERR made extensive recommendations for immediate or longer term actions aiming to prevent terrorism, combat its root causes, protect EU citizens and assist victims in the best possible way.

In line with these recommendations, future EU counterterrorism action will most probably focus on addressing existing and new threats, countering radicalisation – including by preventing the spread of terrorist propaganda online – and enhancing the resilience of critical infrastructure. Foreseeable developments also include increased information sharing, with planned interoperability between EU security- and border-related databases, as well as investigation and prosecution of terrorist crimes at EU level, through the proposed extension of the mandate of the recently established European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Europe. Several EU Member States (such as France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) have a long history of fighting domestic terrorist groups. However, with the 11 September 2001 attacks on United States soil, the terrorist threat has evolved to a more global scale. According to recent research, between 2000 and 2018, 753 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks in the EU, and 1 115 EU citizens fell victim to terror in non-EU countries. Most fatalities in the EU and in the world are caused by jihadist terrorism. The recent wave of terrorist attacks that hit Europe posed a number of challenges for the EU and its Member States.

Foreign fighters: with the proclamation of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/Da’esh), thousands of young Europeans left for conflict zones in Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIL/Da’esh. Some of them came back to organise and carry out deadly attacks on European soil, such as the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

The full briefing is available :

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