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
Monitoring 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.
Foreign fighters and returnees
Since March 2013 the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has regularly briefed the Council on the issue of foreign fighters and returnees, with particular regard to those travelling to Syria and Iraq. In June 2013, the JHA Council adopted a package of 22 measures related to foreign fighters, suggested by the Coordinator. As a follow up, in December 2013, he presented a report identifying four areas where EU support to member states would be particularly important.
During 2014, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has regularly submitted to the Council progress reports on the implementation of measures agreed by the ministers, as well as proposals for future work. In addition, he has met 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.
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.
Between 25-29 April 2016 the counter-terrorism coordinator visited the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where he met with senior security officials and the prime minister of Qatar. Both countries expressed a strong interest in increasing cooperation with the EU on the issues of foreign terrorist fighters and countering violent extremism.
In March 2016, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator visited Amman to intensify EU-Jordanian cooperation. Both sides agreed to increase engagement in a number of areas, including countering violent extremism, aviation security and terrorist financing.
On 27-28 October 2015, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator and the Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq co-chaired the third meeting of senior counter-terrorism experts from the Euro-Mediterranean region. At the meeting, which took place in Baghdad (Iraq), participants discussed the question of foreign terrorist fighters.
In September 2015, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator participated in the leaders' summit hosted by US President Obama on countering ISIL and violent extremism, together with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the European Commissioner for home affairs. This event took place in the margins of the UN General Assembly.
In July 2015, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator visited Tunisia for meetings with the Tunisian government, including the prime minister. During his visit, he also participated in a G7 meeting to explore how the EU can help Tunisia tackle the threat from terrorism and violent extremism. The EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator visited Tunisia again in September 2015, together with the EEAS Deputy Secretary General. He participated in the first reinforced political dialogue EU-Tunisia in counter-terrorism matters and met with Tunisian prime minister Habib Essid.
On 31 March 2015, the Counter Terrorism Coordinator accompanied the President of the European Council to Tunis. Following the terrorist attack in the Bardo Museum, the purpose of this visit was to express EU solidarity and to discuss with Tunisian authorities how the EU could support Tunisian efforts to address terrorism.
In February 2015, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator and the EEAS director on multilateral issues, visited Lebanon and Tunisia. The goal of these visits was to identify and explore possibilities for counter-terrorism capacity building and cooperation.
Between 16-20 February, the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator attended in Washington the summit on countering violent extremism, organised by US president Barack Obama. Together with the EU high representative for foreign affairs, he attended the ministerial meeting hosted by US secretary of state John Kerry. Gilles de Kerchove also participated in a ministerial meeting on foreign fighters and met with several US counterparts in the fight against terrorism.
On 10-11 September, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator hosted a briefing by experts from the Middle East Media Research Institute. The speakers focused on the increasingly sophisticated techniques terrorist groups are using to attract new recruits, including through the use of video messages and social media. Participants included staff from the European Commission, External Action Service and the General Secretariat of the Council as well as officials from the EU member states.