Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, citizens wrote to the European Parliament expressing their deepest rejection of these acts of terrorism. Citizens also asked the EU institutions to adopt new measures to combat and prevent these crimes.
Many European countries have been affected by terrorism in one form or another. The heinous terrorist attacks on 13 November 2015 in Paris demonstrated once again the challenge of the fight against terrorism and of the prevention of these crimes, while safeguarding citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.
EU counter-terrorism strategy
The fight against terrorism is principally a national competence. However, the European Union supports Member States’ efforts in several ways. The EU counter-terrorism strategy is based on four strands: prevent, protect, pursue and respond. The EU also stresses the importance of dialogue with its international partners.
The European Parliament continuously gives its input towards a joint EU strategy for fighting extremism. On 25 November 2015, the Members of the European Parliament held the key debate of the November plenary session on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. MEPs urged Member States to strengthen security and invest in the skills and technology needed to fight terrorism, instead of allowing our freedoms and tolerance to be undermined. Further information is available in the video recording of the debate, and in the relevant press release.
Prevention of radicalisation
In its resolution of 25 November 2015 on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations, the European Parliament proposes, amongst others, setting up an EU blacklist of jihadists and jihadist terrorist suspects. It stresses the need for a common definition of foreign fighters to permit criminal proceedings against them when they return to the EU and calls on Member States to ensure that foreign fighters are put under judicial control and, if necessary, in administrative detention upon their return to Europe until due judicial prosecution takes place. More information is also available in an EP press release on this subject.
New counter-terrorism powers for Europol
At the end of November, the Parliament and the Council agreed on new governance rules for the EU police agency Europol in order to step up efforts to fight terrorism, cybercrime and other criminal offences and respond faster, as explained in the Parliament press release of 30 November 2015.
MEPs have ensured that Europol’s new powers will go hand in hand with increased data protection safeguards and parliamentary scrutiny. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) will be responsible for monitoring Europol’s work and there will be a clear complaints procedure under EU law for citizens. To ensure democratic control, Europol’s work will be overseen by a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group with members from both national parliaments and the European Parliament.
European Agenda on Security (2015-2020)
On 28 April 2015, the Commission presented its new European Agenda on Security 2015-2020, aiming to facilitate cooperation among Member States in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime. In order to implement this security agenda, the European Commission tabled, on 2 December 2015, a proposal for a directive on terrorism, which aims to close criminal enforcement gaps in the EU legal framework. The proposed directive criminalises preparatory acts such as training and travelling abroad for terrorist purposes, as well as aiding or abetting, inciting and attempting terrorist acts. The European Commission also adopted an action plan to step up the fight against criminals and terrorists accessing and using weapons and explosives through a reinforced control of illicit possession and import to the EU. More information on these proposals is available in the corresponding Commission press release and the Commission fact sheet.
More details on this subject are available on the European Parliament’s webpage on the Passenger Name Record (PNR) and the fight against terrorism.
The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) published a briefing on ‘Global terrorism: trends in 2014/2015‘ in November 2015.
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