The terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March showed the need for better cooperation on counterterrorism in Europe. The European Parliament has been working for years on legislation to facilitate a common response, with joint measures and better information sharing.
Following the Brussels attacks, Parliament’s civil liberties committee will debate how to better combat terrorism on Thursday 7 April.
Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume, a French member of the S&D group (Socialists & Democrats), said at an extraordinary summit of EU’s justice ministers two days after the attacks in Brussels:
“European citizens rightly expect concrete action from their governments and the EU to counter terrorism. This must cover every aspect of the threat, from prevention to protection and prosecution.”
A former director of the American National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew G. Olsen, said in International York Times (5 April) that “Europe is vulnerable to terrorist threats in part because of the lack of commitment to sharing intelligence among security services and in part because of the lack of effective border enforcement.”
Anti-terrorism measures in the pipeline
In an article on Tuesday (5 April), the European Parliament listed a number of measures against the terrorist threat.
The EU’s counter-terrorism strategy was adopted shortly after the attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005. The attacks in Paris in 2015 accelerated the development of new measures. Member states need to work together more with each other and countries outside the EU, MEPs stressed during a debate following the Paris attacks.
Parliament is currently working on two proposals presented by the European Commission at the end of last year: a directive on combatting terrorism that would criminalise preparatory acts such as travelling for this purpose, and a directive on gun control aimed at updating existing rules.
The Parliament estimates that 5,000 Europeans have joined terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria and returning foreign fighters pose a threat to security. Parliament adopted last November a resolution on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of Europeans.
The text proposes ways to tackle extremism online, in prison and through education. For example, MEPs propose to segregate radicalised inmates in prisons and ask for greater transparency on external financial flows.
Last December Parliament and Council reached an agreement on an 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.
The draft legislation now needs to be endorsed in plenary, but MEPs insist on the need to safeguard people’s fundamental rights and of finding the right balance between privacy and safety. The plenary vote will thus take place at the same time as the vote on data protection reform, a package MEPs are working on in order to ensure people have better control over their personal information.
MEPs will be asked to approve additional staff members for the Europol’s counterterrorism centre in April while in May they will vote on a stronger mandate for Europol in order to upgrade the agency’s capabilities.
The Parliament underlines that the fight against terrorism will stay on the political agenda: several other files are in the pipeline for the coming months, including reports on the European criminal records information system and on the Schengen borders code.
The Brussels Times (Source: European Parliament)