Following the terrorist attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004, the European Council adopted a declaration on combating terrorism. Among the measures included in this declaration was the establishment of the position of a Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
On 19 September 2007, then EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, appointed Gilles de Kerchove as EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
In this function, he is in charge of:
- coordinating the work of the Council in combating terrorism
- presenting policy recommendations and proposing priority areas for action to the Council, based on threat analysis and reports produced by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre and Europol
- closely monitoring the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy
- maintaining an overview of all the instruments at the European Union's disposal, to regularly report to the Council and effectively follow up Council decisions
- coordinating with the relevant preparatory bodies of the Council, the Commission and the EEAS and sharing information with them on his activities
- ensuring the EU plays an active role in the fight against terrorism
- improving communication between the EU and third countries in this area
In the strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs (June 2014) the European Council reaffirmed the importance of the role of the counter-terrorism coordinator.
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Most recent areas of activity
Review of existing tools
The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator regularly presents to the Council reports on the functioning and implementation of the existent counter-terrorism tools at EU level. Following the statement of EU leaders on counter terrorism on 12 February 2015, he has regularly presented reports to the Council on the state of play of implementation.
Fight against online extremism
The fight against online extremism is a key theme for 2017. In March 2017, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator travelled to Silicon Valley with the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. He attended meetings with senior representatives from the IT industry to discuss how to tackle online extremism.
In December 2016, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator attended a ministerial meeting of the EU Internet Forum. As an outcome of the meeting, the industry decided to create a shared database to help identify potential terrorist content on social media and prevent its reappearance on other platforms.
Foreign fighters and returnees
The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator regularly briefs the Council on the issue of foreign fighters and returnees, with particular regard to those travelling to Syria and Iraq.
He also submits progress reports to the Council on the implementation of measures agreed by the ministers, as well as proposals for future work. In addition, he meets with authorities from third countries and international institutions to discuss the threat and identify possible areas of cooperation.
Following recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has taken part in the discussions on enhancing the EU's counter terrorism response, both from an internal and from an external perspective.
In March 2017, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator attended an international conference in Malta to discuss the threat from returning foreign terrorist fighters. He spoke to senior officials from across the EU and north Africa, highlighting the need for greater information exchange in order to tackle threat from returnees.
As part of his role of fostering better communication between the EU and third countries in the area of counter-terrorism, the coordinator participates in dialogues with government officials and other stakeholders. To this end, Gilles de Kerchove has travelled to several countries to engage in high level political dialogues and speak with experts, policy makers and civil society. He has also examined possibilities for further cooperation and counter-terrorism capacity building, and attended and spoken at conferences.
In early March 2017, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator led a senior delegation from member states for an exchange of views with the Lebanese government. They discussed how to design an effective national counter-terrorism strategy. The outcome was a joint declaration between the EU and Lebanon which commits both sides to intensifying their cooperation in the pursuit of a national counterterrorism strategy for Lebanon.
In 2016, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator led efforts to develop stronger partnerships on counter-terrorism with a number of countries. Highlights of the year included a counter-terrorism workshop in Jordan in early 2016. The outcome was a joint declaration which committed both sides to stronger cooperation in fields such as countering violent extremism, terrorist finance and border security.
In June 2016, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator led a counter-terrorism dialogue with a senior delegation from the Turkish government in Ankara. Both sides agreed to intensify cooperation on information exchange in order to tackle threat from foreign terrorist fighters.