The European Union and the Fight to Counter Terrorism

Written by | Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Philippe Delivet (Robert Schuman Foundation)

Terrorism is a major threat to the EU. In recent years, the danger of religious radicalism has increased, which manifested itself in the two of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris and the March bombing in the Brussels’ airport and metro station. The Union is confronted with the departure of its citizens, who leave to fight in Syria, and then return to Europe as radicalized jihadists. These people then pose a major threat to European values. But how is it possible to fight effectively against these phenomena?

After 2002, the process of extradition of terrorists to third countries has gradually accelerated and also their funding can be better traced. At the time of a threat to the internal security of the Member States, it is also possible to temporarily restore border controls in the Schengen area. Security forces have access to the biometric data of suspected individuals and there is also cooperation between police and courts within the Europol and Eurojust framework. In addition, the Union also cooperates with the United States in this area.

In light of the growing threat of terrorism, the EU agenda is currently focusing on the protection of citizens through the existing instruments, prevention of radicalization, defense of the Union’s values and cooperation at the international level. The European directive adopted in December 2015, for example, enables to criminalize persons in the EU, who attempt to recruit, train and facilitate the subsequent departure of new fighters abroad, where they commit terrorist acts. The Lisbon Treaty was also instrumental in laying a ground for a more effective fight against terror by deepening cooperation among police forces across the Member States. Moreover, the Treaty introduced the so-called solidarity clause under which the countries hit by terrorist attacks must receive help from other Member States.

The EU has also stepped up its efforts to the fight against jihadist propaganda on the Internet that has effectively become a crucial battleground in the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism. For this purpose, private entities that fight jihadist propaganda should be strengthened. The European Security Agenda 2015-2020, which speaks about the creation of a European Anti-Terrorism Center, has outlined possible avenues of the future anti-terrorism strategy. This should allow Europol to support the running of national enforcement authorities in the fight against foreign fighters, terrorism financing, extremist content on the Internet and trafficking of illegal weapons.

(The study can be downloaded here :

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