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What measures is the EU taking to combat terrorism?

Following various terrorist attacks in Europe, citizens write to the European Parliament expressing their deepest rejection of these acts of terrorism. Citizens also ask 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. Heinous terrorist attacks have 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

No terror icon. Black gun and red round inhibitory sign

mykhailobokovan / Fotolia

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 terrorism and extremism. The Parliament’s top story on ‘Terrorism‘ includes articles, interviews, press releases and other materials on this issue.

During the plenary session in April 2016, MEPs debated counter-terrorism strategies with Commission and Council representatives. Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016, MEPs underlined the need for better cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Europe. Previously, on 21 January 2016, the Members of the European Parliament had held a plenary debate on the terrorist attacks in Paris. MEPs had 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.

Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive

In December 2015, Parliament and Council reached an agreement on a Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive, a measure requiring more systematic collection, use and retention of airline passengers’ personal data, including travel dates and itineraries, contact details and payment information. MEPs approved the agreement on 14 April 2016. Further information on the legislative procedure is available in the relevant procedure file 2011/0023(COD) of the Legislative Observatory, the European Parliament’s database for monitoring the EU decision-making process. More details are available in the European Parliament’s top story on PNR.

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 available in an EP press release on this subject.

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution on 23 November 2016 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy where it calls for a strong preventive policy based on comprehensive de-radicalisation programmes. The European Parliament calls on the Commission to take action to tackle the distribution of extremist content online and to promote more active judicial cooperation between criminal justice systems, including Eurojust, in the fight against radicalisation and terrorism in all Member States.

New counter-terrorism powers for Europol

At the end of November 2015, 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. These rules were formally approved by Parliament on 11 May 2016, and will take effect as of 1 May 2017. More details are available in the Parliament press release of 30 November 2015 and in the press release of 11 May 2016.

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. The new European Counter Terrorism Centre was launched on 25 January 2016.

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 April 2016, the Commission adopted a communication taking stock of progress made, identifying implementation gaps in the fight against terrorism and setting out the actions that need to be taken to address these gaps. Further information is available in the Commission press release of 20 April 2016.

Proposal for a directive on combatting terrorism

In order to implement the security agenda, the European Commission tabled, on 2 December 2015, a proposal for a directive on combating 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. There is an informal agreement between the Council and European Parliament on this directive meaning the directive can be voted on plenary. After adoption, Member states will have 18 months to ensure that its provisions can be applied. More information is available in the European Parliament press release of 5 December 2016. Information concerning the next stages of this procedure is available in the relevant procedure file 2015/0281(COD).

Action plans

The European Commission adopted an action plan against illicit trafficking in and use of firearms and explosives to step up the fight against criminals and terrorists. On 2 February 2016, the European Commission also presented an Action Plan to strengthen the fight against the financing of terrorism. More information is available in the corresponding Commission press release and the Commission fact sheet.

Further information

The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) provides publications and analyses on the EU’s measures to combat and prevent terrorism. An overview of EU law in the fight against terrorism is available in the EUR-Lex database.

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About Ask EP

The Citizens' Enquiries Unit provides information on the activities, powers and organisation of the European Parliament. You ask, we answer.

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The content of all documents (and articles) contained in this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy. Copyright © European Union, 2014. All rights reserved

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