- The terrorist incident in Vienna, Austria, has bolstered the EU’s resolve to combat terrorism in Europe and bring those responsible to account.
- Terrorism has been a high priority for the European Union and its member states for several years.
Terrorist activity has been a risk to Europe throughout history. The possibility of Islamic terrorist acts in Europe has been a major source of anxiety in recent years, propelling terrorism prevention to the top of the EU agenda.
The European Union and its member countries are continually formulating anti-terrorism laws in order to better protect EU citizens, residents, and visitors. This article examines the EU’s counter-terrorism strategy and the options available to it to aid in the prevention of future terrorist activities.
PREVENT, PROTECT, PURSUE, RESPOND
The European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, formed in 2005, is based on four pillars: prevention, protection, pursuit, and response.
Stop the recruitment and radicalization. Recent developments include an emphasis on the impact of foreign fighters and the use of social media.
Protect: making external borders more secure and lowering assault vulnerability.
Pursue: preventing terrorists from planning and carrying out attacks (for example, by preventing money laundering and terrorist financing), as well as bringing terrorists to justice.
Respond: lessen the impact of a terrorist attack by dealing with the aftermath, including victim assistance.
An effective counter-terrorism policy requires international cooperation. On security issues, the EU collaborates extensively with the United States and other third nations, as well as organisations such as the Global Terrorism Forum, the League of Arab States, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
HOW THE EU FIGHTS TERRORISM IN EUROPE
Terrorism is not a new phenomenon; it has existed in various forms for thousands of years. Terrorists employ violence to achieve their cause, and Islamic terrorist assaults in Europe are particularly driven by religious extremism.
As the methods utilised by the Islamic State grow, so must the EU’s response and efforts to prevent such behaviour.
Some of the most significant recent advancements have been:
- The creation of the EU terrorist list
- The launch of the European Counter Terrorism Centre
- The 2016 directive on the use of Passenger Name Record
The following sections provide details on these essential tools. In the future, Europe’s new visa waiver scheme will be unveiled in November 2023. ETIAS will aid in the fight against terrorism in Europe by fortifying the external Schengen borders.
THE EUROPEAN COUNTER TERRORISM CENTRE
The European Counter Terrorism Centre is a formidable instrument in the EU’s fight against terrorism. Europol launched the ECTC in 2016 in response to the Islamic State’s shifting methods.
The ECTC, as Europe’s central anti-terrorism operations centre, plays a critical role in keeping the region safe.
The ECTC’s goals encompass all four pillars because the organisation unites knowledge from around Europe in order to:
- Provide EU Member States investigation with operational support when requested
- Manage foreign threats
- Share intelligence regarding the financing of terrorism
- Tackle online terrorism propaganda and extremism
- Prevent illegal arms trafficking
- Facilitate international counter-terrorism authorities
To achieve these objectives, the ECTC collaborates closely with the European Cybercrime Centre and the European Migrant Smuggling Centre.
OPERATIONAL SUPPORT FOR MEMBER STATES
When investigating terrorist attacks, EU Member States can seek assistance from the ECTC. To swiftly discover pertinent financial leads and other key information, existing Europol data is cross-checked against operational data.
In the case of a terrorist attack, member countries can also rely on specialised ECTC teams.
ECTC EXPERT TEAMS
The European Counter Terrorism Centre brings together experts from all over Europe to analyse data from all EU member countries. By aggregating law enforcement information in this manner, the ECTC may build a critical, European-wide perspective on terrorist prevention.
THE EU TERRORIST LIST
Since 2002, the EU has kept a list of persons, groups, and entities involved in terrorist activity and hence susceptible to sanctions. including the EU’s freeze of finances and financial assets
Every six months, the list is reviewed and updated to ensure that all of the most recent information is included. Member States can request that individuals, organisations, or entities be added to the list; this request is reviewed by the Council before a decision is made.
PASSENGER NAME RECORD AND SECURITY
On April 27th, 2016, the European Parliament and Council issued a directive on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR).
PNR refers to the information collected by airlines about passengers during the reservation and check-in processes, which includes the flight itinerary, contact information, and payment method. Law enforcement authorities can benefit greatly from passenger name records.
By 2018, all Member States were required to have Passenger Information Units in place (PIU). These teams are in charge of gathering data from airlines and comparing it to security databases in order to detect and prevent terrorism or other significant crimes.
When appropriate, the PUIs must also provide information to Europol and the PUIs of other Member States.
ETIAS: PREVENTING CROSS-BORDER TERRORIST ACTIVITY
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which is set to go live in November 2023, will prevent dangerous individuals from entering Europe and contributing to the list of terrorist incidents in Europe.
Once ETIAS is operational, visitors from visa-free nations will be asked to register their information online before travelling to Europe.
This information will then be cross-checked against security databases such as Europol, Interpol, and the EU blacklist in order to identify anyone engaging in terrorist activity and prevent them from legally crossing the border.
This extra security step will protect third-country citizens from over 60 nations’ visa-free status while also fortifying exterior boundaries. ETIAS is similar to America’s ESTA system for visa-free travellers.
TIMELINE OF COUNTER-TERRORISM MEASURES IN EUROPE
This timeline depicts some of the most important actions implemented by the EU and its member states during the last five years. A list of terrorist attacks in Europe from 2015 to 2020 is also included in the timeline.
- November 10th—The European Commission announces the launch in December of a new programme to fight terrorism in the EU
- November 3rd—lone gunman opens fire in the Austrian capital, Vienna
- October 29th—terrorist attack in Nice, joint statement from EU leaders calling for understanding and dialogue rather than division
- March 13th—The Council renews and updates the EU terrorist list
- October 14th—restrictive measures against ISIL (Da’esh)/Al-Qaeda extended for 1 year
- June 6th—conclusions on preventing radicalisation in prison published
- May 14th—new regulations to facilitate information sharing and increase security at external borders
- September—proposal of new rules to prevent the spread of terrorist content online
- November 19th—new rules to strengthen the Schengen Information System (SIS) to ensure high levels of security in the EU
- August 17th—Europe saddened by tourist attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona
- June 22nd—EU leaders reaffirm their commitment to fighting terrorism and condemn recent attacks including the London Bridge attack on June 3rd
- June 9th—updating of guidelines on combating radicalisation and recruitment
- May 22nd—Manchester Arena bombing
- March 7th—criminalising of activities including travelling within or outside the EU for terrorism purposes, organising travel, training/being trained for terrorism, providing or collecting funds
- March 7th—reinforcement of checks against relevant databases to strengthen external Schengen borders
- December 19th—Berlin Christmas market attack
- November 21st—conclusions on the prevention of violent radicalisation published
- November 18th—proposal on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) presented by the Commission
- June 9th—practical measures to fight against criminal activities in cyberspace
- April 21st—adoption of the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive
- March 24th—joint statement following terrorist attacks on March 22nd
- January 25th—Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) launched
- December 18th—European Council calls for increased action against terrorism
- December 15th—package of proposals to strengthen exterior borders
- November 16th—G20 statement following recent attacks in Paris and Ankara
- April 20th—new rules to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing
- February 12th—statement from EU leaders calling for specific counter-terrorism action
- January 7-9th—Île-de-France attacks
The EU prioritises citizen safety and will continue to work hard to prevent terrorist activity on European soil.