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Terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Europe. It poses a threat to our security, to the values of our democratic societies and to the rights and freedoms of European citizens. Between 2009-2013 there were 1010 failed, foiled or completed attacks carried out in EU member states, in which 38 people died. In addition, several European citizens have been kidnapped or killed by terrorist groups around the world. The phenomenon of fighters from Europe travelling to different locations to fight the jihad, and the security threat they may pose inside the EU when they return, are also likely to persist in the coming years.

Since these threats do not recognise borders, they must be confronted at both a national and international level.

EU strategy

The EU counter-terrorism strategy aims to combat terrorism globally while respecting human rights, and to make Europe safer, allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and justice.

The European Union member states are committed to jointly fighting terrorism and providing for the best possible protection for its citizens. To this end, in 2005 the Council adopted the EU counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy is focused on four main pillars: prevent, protect, pursue and respond. Across these pillars, the strategy recognises the importance of cooperation with third countries and international institutions.

Prevent

One of the EU priorities in the field of counter-terrorism is to identify and tackle the factors which contribute to radicalisation and the processes by which individuals are recruited to commit acts of terror. To this end the Council adopted an EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. In light of evolving trends, such as the phenomena of lone actors and foreign fighters or the growing potential of social media for mobilisation and communication, the Council adopted a revision of this strategy in June 2014.

Protect

The second priority of the EU counter-terrorism strategy is the protection of citizens and infrastructure and the reduction of vulnerability to attack. This includes the protection of external borders, the improvement of transport security, the protection of strategic targets and the reduction of the vulnerability of critical infrastructure. In this area, the EU is currently working on legislation regulating the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for law enforcement purposes.

Pursue

The EU is working to hinder terrorists' capacity to plan and organise, and to bring these terrorists to justice. To achieve these goals, the EU has focused on strengthening national capabilities, improving practical cooperation and information exchange between police and judicial authorities (in particular through Europol and Eurojust), tackling terrorist financing and depriving terrorists of the means by which they mount attacks and communicate.

Respond

The fourth objective of the EU counter-terrorism strategy is to prepare, in the spirit of solidarity, to manage and minimise the consequences of a terrorist attack. This is done by improving capabilities to deal with the aftermath, the coordination of the response, and the needs of victims. Priorities in this area include the development of EU crisis co-ordination arrangements, the revision of the civil protection mechanism, the development of risk assessment or the sharing of best practices on assistance to victims of terrorism.

International cooperation

The security of the European Union is closely linked with the developments in other countries, particularly in the neighbouring states, and so the EU counter-terrorism strategy needs to be on a global scale.

In the relations between the EU and third countries, the counter-terrorism agenda is present in many ways, through high level political dialogues, the adoption of cooperation clauses and agreements, or specific assistance projects to strategic countries.

Cooperation with the US is a fundamental component of the EU's strategy. In recent years, cooperation agreements have been reached in areas such as the financing of terrorism, transport and borders, mutual legal assistance or extradition. US authorities are working more and more closely with Europol and Eurojust.

Another important part of the external dimension of the fight against terrorism involves working closely with other international and regional organisations, including the UN, to build international consensus and promote international standards for fighting terrorism.