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Counterterrorism Agenda of the EU: Part II

We will conclude our review of this strategy by discussing its remaining sections (p. 10 - 24). Abbreviated version below.


"Strengthening the counter-terrorism response must include reducing vulnerabilities that can be exploited or targeted by terrorists. By better protecting our borders and denying terrorists the means used to carry out terrorist acts, we can protect against potential attacks.

Protecting people in public spaces

Terrorist attacks have overwhelmingly targeted people in public spaces, which are especially vulnerable due to their open and accessible nature. We need to safeguard the open nature of these spaces while at the same time making them more secure through stronger physical protection measures that do not create fortresses and still allow people to walk about freely and safely. This is why the Commission will increase efforts at EU level to promote security- by-design solutions, which build security into public spaces (buildings and infrastructures) from the beginning of the design and urban planning processes. The Commission will issue a virtual architectural book on urban design, which can serve as inspiration for authorities to incorporate security aspects in the design of future and the renovation of existing public spaces.

The EU Forum on the protection of public spaces has brought together a wide group of people with responsibility over the security of public spaces. These include EU Member States’ authorities, and private operators, e.g. those responsible for shopping malls, transport services, or venues for hospitality. There is much to be learned from different experiences in protecting public spaces. The Commission is committed to enhancing this forum, which should collect, consolidate and disseminate knowledge, as well as support the EU Pledge on Urban Security and Resilience, and to use targeted funding to help improving the protection of public spaces. The Commission will also explore the possibility of setting minimum obligations for those that are responsible for guaranteeing the security of public spaces to clarify what can be expected from the operators of public spaces. Places of worship hold a particularly high symbolic value and have frequently been targeted by terrorists. We must better protect churches, mosques and synagogues as well as other religious sites across the EU. We should also foster cooperation between the different faith communities and the relevant national authorities as they exchange experiences. As from 2021, the Commission aims to support projects that enhance the physical protection of places of worship in close coordination with Member States.

RESPOND After a terrorist attack has occurred, urgent action is needed to minimise its impact and allow for the swift investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. No Member State can do it on its own. Cooperation is needed both at the European level and internationally.

Operational support: strengthening Europol Europol and its European Counter-Terrorism Centre (ECTC) are key to EU action on counter-terrorism and its operational support has increased fivefold over recent years (from 127 operational cases supported in 2016 to 632 cases in 2019). The ECTC is now part of every major counter-terrorism investigation in the EU. As part of the legislative initiative tostrengthen the Europol mandate, we need to enable Europol to cooperate effectively with private parties. Terrorists abuse cross-border services of companies to recruit followers, to plan and carry out attacks, and to disseminate propaganda inciting further attacks. Many companies want to share data, but may not know with whom as it may be unclear which Member States have jurisdiction to prosecute the specific crime. Europol is best placed to close this gap and be a first contact to identify and transmit the relevant evidence to the authorities of the Member States concerned.

Europol must also be able to support national counter-terrorism investigations with the analysis of large and complex datasets (‘big data’). This will build on the successful work of Europol with Task Force Fraternité to support French and Belgian authorities in the investigation of the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels attacks. Strengthening Europol’s role in research and innovation will help national authorities in using modern technologies to counter the threat of terrorism. Terrorists mask their identity, hide the content of their communications, and secretly transfer illicit goods and resources by exploiting new technologies. Therefore, we need to step up Europol’s operational support on decryption in full respect of EU law.

Strengthening information exchange

Justice and Home Affairs Agencies (such as Europol, Eurojust and Frontex) will need to strengthen their coordination in order to combat terrorism. Together with Member States, and given their respective responsibilities, connecting factors should be identified and solutions implemented in view of an efficient approach at the EU level. The Commission will make specific proposals to that effect, in particular to establish an efficient mechanism of information exchange in counter-terrorism cases, which should include a digital collaboration platform for Joint Investigation Teams, and step up the implementation of a hit/no-hit system between Europol and Eurojust to detect links between their data. The Commission is also proposing as part of the reinforced mandate of Europol to establishing a hit/no-system between Europol and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). In addition, it remains an objective to extend the mandate of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to cross- border terrorist crimes. While increased information exchange among EU Member States is an absolute necessity, it is not always sufficient to effectively address global threats. This is why, international cooperation is a key component to an effective response to threats. Bilateral agreements with key partners play an important role in exchanging information, securing evidence and investigative leads from jurisdictions outside the EU. In that regard, Interpol, the international criminal police organisation, fulfils an important role. Despite the long-standing cooperation between the EU and Interpol, there are areas where cooperation should be established or reinforced. Interpol is a key partner on counter-terrorism, for example due to their expertise on foreign terrorist fighters. This includes, for instance, their work on the collection of battlefield information and the prevention of undetected border-crossings. Several EU bodies are faced with the operational need to have access to Interpol databases to perform their tasks. In order to enable such access in accordance with the requirements of EU legislation, the Commission is preparing the appropriate instruments to negotiate a cooperation agreement between the EU and Interpol.

REINFORCING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ACROSS ALL FOUR PILLARS Counter-terrorism partnerships, including close cooperation with countries in the EU’s neighbourhood, are essential to improve security inside the EU. The Council has called for further strengthening of the EU’s external counter-terrorism engagement with a focus on the Western Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, in other African countries where terrorist activities are increasing, and in key regions in Asia. Such engagement can help Member States in their work to close off terrorist activity, as well as working at a global level to combat terrorist organisations. In this regard, support from the CT/Security experts’ network in EU Delegations in facilitating cooperation and promoting capacity building remains essential.

Cooperation with Western Balkan partners on counter-terrorism, including through relevant EU agencies, remains key. Fully implementing the Joint Action Plan on Counter-terrorism for the Western Balkans, including integrating further the region into the activities of the Radicalisation Awareness Network is essential. The Commission will continue to prioritise cooperation in the area of police and judicial cooperation. Countering terrorism financing and protection of citizens and infrastructure is also key. Cooperation with Western Balkan partners in the area of firearms will be stepped up in the coming years with their increased involvement in the Firearms priority of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). The Commission will also continue to support financially the Western Balkan partners, Ukraine and Moldova with the implementation of the EU action plan on firearms trafficking.

Cooperation with priority countries in the Southern Neighbourhood should be further strengthened to reinforce measures to prevent and fight terrorism, including money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the protection of public spaces and strengthening the rule of law. Southern Mediterranean countries are also a priority for the EU for developing police cooperation, considering their geographical proximity and the common security threats. The Commission has a mandate to negotiate international agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon to exchange personal data with Europol in the framework of terrorism and serious organised crime. In addition, the Commission is currently seeking authorisation from the Council to open negotiations with ten. third countries on cooperation between Eurojust and those third countries in order to respond effectively to terrorism. Further afield, the Commission will increase cooperation in key countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia on key areas across the strategy. In particular, the EU should increase its engagement with relevant UN bodies such as the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) as well as with other organisations like the OSCE or the Council of Europe on terrorism-related issues.

CONCLUSIONS The threat from terrorism is real, dangerous, and, unfortunately, enduring. This calls for a renewed and sustained commitment to working together to counter the threat. It calls for unity in face of terrorism, which seeks to divide. This Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the EU sets out the way forward.

To pursue and coordinate this work, the Commission will appoint a Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, whose task will be to coordinate the various strands of EU policy and funding in the area of counter-terrorism within the Commission, including cooperation and coordination with Member States, in collaboration with the Council’s EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, as well as the relevant EU Agencies, and the European Parliament.

The inclusive and rights-based foundations of our Union are our strongest protection against the threat of terrorism. An inclusive and welcoming society fully respectful of the rights of all is a society where terrorists will find it more difficult to radicalise and recruit. We must collectively uphold, reinforce and defend our democratic and fundamental values against those that seek to undermine them. For this, we need to invest in social cohesion, education and inclusive societies where everybody feels that his or her identity is respected and that they fully belong to the community as a whole.

This Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the EU builds on existing policies and instruments and will strengthen the EU’s framework to further improve on anticipating threats and risks, preventing radicalisation and violent extremism, protecting people and infrastructures, including through external border security, and responding effectively after attacks. Whilst this Agenda announces a series of new measures, implementation and enforcement remain key and there must be a common effort to ensure this, from swift adoption and application of the legal framework to speeding up the impact of measures on the ground. The Commission will work with Member States and keep the European Parliament, the Council and stakeholders informed and engaged in all relevant actions to implement the Counter- Terrorism Agenda for the EU."

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