EU Justice Commissioner, Vera Jourova, said in an interview for the French newspaper Le Figaro that the European Union estimates that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 European jihadists fighting in Syria. She admitted though that the number could be much higher due to the difficulty of tracking foreign fighters in the jihad war. She further said that “at the time of the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, we decided not to allow ourselves to be guided by fear”. However, focusing on those already leaving the block and those returning from the conflict, it is also already “too late” to intervene.
Commissioner Jourova said that Brussels wanted to promote prevention as a means of decreasing the steadily growing number of European nationals trying to join jihadist groups for different reasons, but often for motives other than religion. A British study found that many cite “a desire for adventure, boredom, dissatisfaction with their situation in life or a lack of prospects” as important drivers in their decision to head for Syria.
In addition to prevention, another EU strategy to counter the flow of Europeans joining jihadists is the exchange of information between the police and court systems including more intelligence sharing. “We want the exchange of information to intensify between Europol and Eurojust [judicial cooperation unit of the EU],” Mrs Jourova said and added that such an effort should be “systematic and automatic”. She also stressed as well that the Commission “has allotted a budget of €2.5 million to provide training of prison and probation staff, as well as that of European prosecutors”. Moreover, the Commission is creating joint investigation teams that allow for international cooperation among Member States.