Blog AnalysisPolice Terrorism

What can Europe do, what does Europe do in the face of terrorism?

Minute of silence in the European institutions after the Manchester attack (credit: Council of the EU / Archives B2 May 2017)

(B2) In the fight against terrorism, the European Union is not at the forefront. Internal security remains, in fact, the sole responsibility of the Member States. But above all it comes as support.

A harmonized European legislative framework

The main task assigned to the European level is the establishment of a complete legislative system valid in all countries. This may seem like a detail. But the point is to have no flaws in the European system.

It starts with the definition of terrorism. It's not a detail. This makes it possible to have the same legal basis in all 28 Member States for bringing a person before justice. This text has just been strengthened.

This continued with the establishment of a European arrest warrant – which speeds up the transfer of suspects from one country to another – and the establishment of joint investigation teams.

Finally, various texts have defined exchanges of information to combat money laundering (and the financing of terrorism), to ensure the exchange of air transport passenger information (PNR data).

Promote cooperation between the police and justice

The European Union has also set up an agency (Europol) responsible for facilitating police cooperation between the different Member States, as well as another agency (Eurojust) responsible for facilitating judicial cooperation. Within Europol, a European center responsible for the fight against terrorism (ECCT) was created in January 2016, initially composed of around sixty agents delegated by the capitals (France, Belgium, Germany, etc.). ).

A small unit also operates within the European Diplomatic Service, IntCen, responsible for aggregating information from different sources, generally open but also from EU delegations (read our factsheet: IntCen. Where is he from ? What is he doing ? With whom ? On what basis?). An EU anti-terrorist coordinator has been appointed (today Gilles de Kerchove) within the Council of the European Union, ensuring monitoring and liaison between “operational” staff and politicians, making it possible to sound the alarm. alarm on the various problems encountered or to publicly express concerns. A political position was created in June 2016 at the European Commission, responsible for ensuring the rise of the Security Union, particularly focused on the fight against terrorism (position assigned to the British Julian King).

Financial penalties

The third line of action is the establishment of a blacklist of people and groups carrying out terrorism. This list, updated every six months, is valid in all European countries. It allows the freezing of assets and the visa ban of any person listed therein. The list derives largely from the blacklist established internationally (UN) as part of the fight against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group (ISIL/ISIS/Daesh). But the European Union can add names and groups independently. (Read our factsheet: The EU anti-terrorist list. How is it established? Who is there?).

Information exchange

Europe has no direct means of intervention. But it coordinates certain actions, such as the small “fraternity” unit set up the day after the Paris attacks at Europol, composed mainly of French and Belgians. It also set up instruments for collecting and exchanging information such as the Schengen system (SIS II), the Visa file and the asylum seeker file (Eurodac). A common interface is being created to avoid black areas (the person exists in the file, but we did not find him in time). The rest of the exchanges take place directly between services (internal security, intelligence, judicial police, etc.).

And it usually works well (contrary to what some observers claim). We " exchange confidently and intensively with certain countries. Between Belgians and French, relations are intense and daily. Same with German or Spanish services ” confided to me recently an actor well aware of these questions. Corn " it is based on one element: trust ". Essential point of the notion of sensitive information exchanges. These exchanges sometimes come up against certain refusals or difficulties. But these are as much due to the national sovereignty of each country or the lack of trust, as to the confidentiality of sources (essential in this area) or the relevance of the information (what is the point of exchanging information that we is not really sure).

External action

Very early on, Europeans became aware of the need to organize a common approach in the fight against terrorism. This action was more the subject of direct multinational cooperation between Member States. From 2011, and the increase in the threat in the Sahel, this strategy began to materialize: certain CSDP missions were reinforced with this objective (in Mali) or even specifically put in place (in Niger). “Security” attachés are recruited in some particularly exposed EU embassies (Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, etc.). A European unit was specially set up in Bamako to help the G5 Sahel gain momentum. (Also read: The external counter-terrorism strategy (sheet)).

Comment: Europe a rear support role

In the end, if we want to take a sporty image, Europe is a bit like the back of a rugby (or football) team.. He is not the one who is going to score the try, nor is he going to take the ball. But he blocks attacks. And he comes to the aid of his forwards and pillars in difficulty, during a scrum. This is the main thing: ensuring that there are no holes in the European anti-terrorist “web”, ensuring a certain community of ideas and thoughts to allow everyone to act as closely as possible. .

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Anti-terrorism. What Europe lacks

Our File No. 32. Europe facing a new wave of terrorism)


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).