The threat posed by Europeans being radicalised, many of who are also travelling abroad to fight, is likely to persist in the coming years. An effective response to these issues requires a comprehensive approach and long term commitment.
The primary responsibility in the fight against terrorism lies with the member states. However, the EU can and should play a supportive role that helps respond to the cross-border nature of the threat.
Since the beginning of 2013, the issues of radicalisation and foreign terrorist fighters have been regular items on the agenda of the Council of the EU and the European Council. They have developed a comprehensive response , including both internal and external lines of action.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015, the European Union decided to reinforce its response and accelerate the implementation of agreed measures. On 12 February, EU leaders held a debate on the way forward and agreed on a statement to guide the work of the EU and the member states in the coming months. This statement called for specific measures, focusing on three areas of action:
The statement by EU leaders built on the work done by ministers of home affairs, justice, economy and foreign affairs during previous months.
In December 2015, EU heads of state and government noted that the full implementation of the measures defined in the statement was still a priority.
In June 2013, the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed on a series of proposals for action. The Council also invited the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to present a report on the implementation of these measures at its December 2013 meeting.
In this report the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator identified four areas where EU action in support of efforts by member states would be particularly important:
At the European Council meeting in August 2014, member states called for the accelerated implementation of measures in these four priority areas and the proposal of additional action.
Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs continue to have regular discussions on the issue of foreign fighters. During the second half of 2014 they agreed on:
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015, Justice and Home Affairs ministers issued a joint statement.
This served as an input for the 12 February statement by EU leaders, which called for several internal measures, including:
At their meeting in March 2015, ministers discussed the implementation of the measures agreed in the recent statements. They focused in particular on:
In May 2015, the Council and the European Parliament adopted new rules to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. These rules aim to protect citizens and safeguard the EU's internal market, by making sure that EU financial systems are not used for terrorist purposes and money laundering.
At their meetings in June and October 2015, home affairs ministers discussed the implementation of the measures defined in February and exchanged views on the way forward. These discussions took place on the basis of reports from the presidency and the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
In October 2015, the Council also adopted conclusions on strengthening measures to fight trafficking in firearms.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, justice and home affairs ministers met on 20 November to discuss how to strengthen EU response to terrorism. They adopted a set of conclusions, focusing on:
The ministers also adopted conclusions on improving the criminal justice response to radicalisation leading to terrorism and violent extremism.
At their meeting in December, home affairs ministers approved the compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on the proposed EU PNR data directive.
They were also briefed on the implementation of the measures defined in February and November.
On 15 December 2015, the European Commission presented a package of proposals to manage the EU's external borders and protect the Schengen area. These proposals aim to improve the internal security of the EU while safeguarding the principle of free movement of persons.
One of these proposals is an amendment to the Schengen Border Code, to reinforce checks all external EU borders. This amendment would oblige member states to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases on all persons, including EU citizens and others enjoying the right to free movement under EU law. In February 2016, the Council agreed on a general approach, in preparation for negotiations with the European Parliament.
On 18 December 2015, the European Council highlighted the need to:
In February 2016, the Council adopted conclusions on the action plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing. The Council expects progress on:
The Council also called for the establishing of an EU platform containing information about people and organisations connected with terrorist activity whose assets are frozen by member states.
In March 2016, Justice ministers adopted the Council's negotiating position on the proposal for a Directive on combating terrorism. The proposed Directive strengthens the EU's legal framework in preventing terrorist attacks, in particular by criminalising preparatory acts such as training and travel abroad for terrorist purposes, hence contributing to combatting the phenomenon of foreign fighters. The proposal also reinforce rules on the rights of the victims of terrorism.
The Council also held a policy debate regarding the proposal for a directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons which reviews and completes the current directive 91/477/EEC, taking into account the recent terrorist attacks.
Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels, EU ministers responsible for justice and home affairs and representatives of EU institutions met on 24 March 2016. They adopted a joint statement, calling for:
At their meeting on 20 October 2014, foreign affairs ministers adopted the EU counter terrorism/foreign fighters strategy focusing on Syria and Iraq. This strategy presents a broad approach, covering several priority areas for action and a wide range of tools. These priority areas include:
Following terrorist attacks in Paris, foreign affairs ministers held a debate on further action to counter terrorism at their meeting on 19 January 2015. They agreed that action should be taken to:
This debate was continued at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 9 February 2015. At this meeting, ministers adopted conclusions on counter terrorism.
Following recent attacks in Paris and Ankara, G20 leaders adopted a statement on the fight against terrorism at their summit on 16 November 2015. They highlighted the need to address:
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, represented the EU at this summit.
The conclusions served as an input for discussions at the informal meeting of EU heads of state and government on 12 February. EU leaders agreed on the need for external action, including:
On 16 March 2015, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted the regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da'esh threat.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested bilateral assistance from member states under article 42.7 of the Treaty of the European Union. At their meeting on 17 November, EU defence ministers expressed their unanimous support and readiness to contribute. Article 42.7 establishes that EU member states have "an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power" to any country that is "the victim of armed aggression on its territory". This is without prejudice to "the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states". It is the first time article 42.7 is used.
On 14 December 2015, foreign affairs ministers also discussed the external dimension of the EU's counter-terrorism work. They assessed , in particular, cooperation with countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey and the Western Balkans. They discussed geographical and thematic priorities, including work against foreign terrorist fighters, improving border security and aviation security, curtailing terrorist financing and countering radicalisation and violent extremism.
EU leaders, meeting on 18 December 2015, also highlighted the need to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation with these countries.