Combatting terrorism: Parliament sets out proposals for a new EU strategy

Terrorism Police

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Based on a thorough assessment, Parliament sets out recommendations to tackle radicalisation, improve data interoperability and support victims of terrorism.

In a non-legislative resolution discussed on Tuesday and adopted on Wednesday with 474 votes to 112 and 75 abstentions, Parliament suggests reinforcing the role of the EU agencies such as Europol and the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT Systems (eu-LISA).

MEPs also voice concerns over insufficient data exchange among the agencies, and between the member states and EU authorities. They underline the importance of fully respecting fundamental rights, including data protection and freedom of expression, when undertaking counter-terrorism measures.

Among Parliament’s main proposals:

  • Creating an EU watch list of radical preachers;
  • Stronger monitoring to ensure harmonised security and judicial prosecution of identified ‘returning fighters’ to Europe;
  • preclude convicted terrorist offenders from being granted asylum;
  • Anti-radicalisation measures, such as programmes for prisons, education and campaigns;
  • Specific training on radicalisation for EU and member states’ officials;
  • Strengthening EU’s external borders and proper checks at all border crossings using all relevant databases;
  • Demand for legal procedures to probe the praise of acts of terrorism;Removing printed or online propaganda explicitly inciting to violence;
  • call for continuity of EU-UK cooperation and information exchange;
  • Restricting knife-carrying and banning particularly harmful knives;
  • Inclusion of private planes under the PNR Directive;
  • European system of licences for specialised buyers of explosive precursors;
  • Urgent need for a common definition of ‘victim of terrorism’ at EU level;
  • Commission asked to create an EU Coordination Centre of victims of terrorism (CCVT) to provide crisis support and assistance in cases of attacks;
  • use the European Solidarity Fund to compensate victims of large-scale terror attacks; Closer cooperation with non-EU countries, especially neighbouring countries;

Following the vote, the co-rapporteur, Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE) said: ““Yesterday’s attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg was an attack on European citizens and the common EU values and principles in the worst possible way. The incident has shown us again that we need to leave empty slogans and unrealistic measures behind and concentrate our activities on what really makes Europe safe. Despite all the efforts made over the past years, there are still gaps and ways to make the fight against terrorism more efficient. This means wider cooperation and information exchange between intelligence services and authorities, more prevention measures against radicalisation, tougher legal instruments and better protection of the rights of victims”.

The co-rapporteur, Helga Stevens (ECR, BE), said: “The terrorist attacks in the centre of Strasbourg, yesterday evening, highlight the imminent threat and absolute urgency of dealing better with this sad new reality. Today our report has been put to the vote in the same city, the seat of the European Parliament. Many innovative ideas have been proposed, such as the EU black list for hate preachers, allowing people renting cars to be cross-checked against police databases, and including private planes under the PNR Directive. We are recommending best practices, such as the local anti-radicalisation cells introduced in Belgium. And we put the victims at the forefront, by asking for medical costs to be automatically pre-paid after an attack and smoother insurance procedures. These are just a few examples from the comprehensive and poignant report “.

Background

In recent years, the EU has faced an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks, which have catapulted the issue of security to the forefront of citizens’ concerns and highlighted the problems with cooperation and information-sharing in this field. The latest Europol European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TESAT) states that the attacks committed by jihadists were the most lethal.

Established last year, the Special Committee on Terrorism (TERR) was tasked with examining, analysing and assessing the extent of the terrorist threat on European soil, based on facts provided by law enforcement authorities in the member states, competent EU agencies and recognised experts. This included a thorough assessment of the existing forces on the ground to enable the European Union and its member states to step up their capacity to prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorist crimes.

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