Timeline: foreign terrorist fighters and recent terrorist attacks in Europe
EU leaders reaffirm their commitment to cooperate at EU level
At the June European Council, EU leaders strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks. They reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate at EU level to:
- fight online radicalisation
- prevent and counter violent extremism
- tackle terrorism financing
- improve information sharing and the interoperability of databases
Council conclusions on interoperability of EU information systems
The Council adopted conclusions on improving information exchange and ensuring interoperability of EU information systems. These conclusions follow the final report by the high level expert group on information systems and interoperability, set up by the Commission in June 2016. The HLEG examined the ways in which member states implement and use existing systems as well as the possible development of new systems.
Council updates guidelines to combat radicalisation and terrorism recruitment
The Council adopted the revised guidelines for the EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, which were agreed in 2014. Terrorist attacks in Europe in 2015 and 2016 demonstrated the need to address radicalisation at both the national and European level. The guidelines were revised to reflect the changed threat picture as well as recent policy developments.
Council conclusions on the Commission action plan on travel document fraud
The Council adopted conclusions on the action plan to strengthen the European response to travel document fraud. The conclusions underline the need to overhaul FADO, the EU's online image-archiving database for false and authentic documents, through a change of its legal basis. Travel document security is a fundamental element in the fight terrorism and organised crime. It also contributes to improve migration management and border protection.
Council adopts directive on combating terrorism
The Council adopted a directive on combating terrorism. The new rules strengthen the EU's legal framework to prevent terrorist attacks and address the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters. The directive criminalises:
- travelling within, outside or to the EU for terrorist purposes
- the organisation and facilitation of such travel
- training and being trained for terrorist purposes
- providing or collecting funds related to terrorist offences or activities
Council adopts regulation to reinforce checks at external borders
On 7 March 2017, the Council adopted a regulation amending the Schengen borders code to reinforce checks against relevant databases at external borders. The amendment obliges member states to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases on all persons when they cross external borders.
The checks will also enable member states to verify that those persons do not represent a threat to public policy, internal security or public health. This obligation shall apply at all external borders (air, sea and land borders), both at entry and exit.
Council discusses foreign fighter returnees
The Council took note of a report from the EU Counter-terrorism coordinator setting out policy options to address the issue of foreign terrorist fighters returnees. Ministers asked experts to continue the discussion with a view to the possible development of EU policy measures designed to address this issue.
Ministers also took note of the proposals made by France and Germany on the need to improve cooperation between the law enforcement agencies and electronic service providers.
In addition, the Council adopted conclusions on strengthening the EU internal security's external dimension in the Western Balkans including via Integrative Internal Security Governance (IISG).
Council adopts conclusions on preventing violent radicalisation
The Council adopted conclusions on the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism, following a Commission communication of 14 June 2016. The conclusions underline the need to:
- undermine and challenge existing violent extremist ideologies
- counterbalance them by appealing non-violent alternatives
- support parents, siblings, and others in contact with those young people who are at risk of violent radicalisation
- involve and cooperate with service providers in the fight against illegal hate speech online,
Commissions presents its proposal on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)
The Commission presented its recent proposal on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to the Council. ETIAS will allow for advance checks and, if necessary, deny entry to visa-exempt travellers. Ministers considered that the system proposed will strengthen the EU's security and border management policy. They tasked experts to start examining the proposal.
The Council also took note of progress in implementing a roadmap to improve information exchange and information management, including interoperability solutions in the justice and home affairs area. In addition, the Council took note of the report of the EU Counter-terrorism coordinator on the implementation of measures on counter terrorism since the European Council on 12 February 2015.
Julian King appointed as new commissioner for security union
The Council, by common accord with the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, appointed Julian King as the new commissioner for security union. The appointment applies for the remainder of the current term of office of the Commission which ends on 31 October 2019.
Council agrees negotiating position to strengthen control of firearms
Ministers agreed the Council's negotiating position on the proposal for a directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. The revised directive aims at addressing certain weaknesses in the existing legislation that have been identified especially in the aftermath of the latest terrorist attacks in Europe.
Ministers also endorsed a roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management including interoperability solutions in the Justice and Home Affairs area. The roadmap sets out a framework for a more integrated EU information architecture and specific, practical short and medium-term- actions as well as long-term orientations to enhance information management and information exchange.
Fight against criminal activities in cyberspace : Council agrees on practical measures and next steps
The Council adopted conclusions on improving criminal justice in cyberspace. The conclusions set out practical measures to improve cooperation as well as a timeline for further action. The terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016 stressed the need to find ways to secure and obtain e-evidence more quickly and effectively.
Council reviews the implementation of the regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da'esh threat
The Council adopted conclusions on the EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da'esh threat. The conclusions outline how the EU will step up its efforts:
- to increase its counter-terrorism action
- to cooperate with third countries
- to counter radicalisation
- to stop terrorist financing
Council adopts EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive
Home Affairs ministers adopted a directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime.
Ministers also discussed the use and interoperability of databases and the recent Commission proposals on the smart borders package.
Joint statement following the terrorist attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016
EU ministers responsible for justice and home affairs and representatives of EU institutions met following the terrorist attacks in Brussels. They adopted a joint statement, calling for:
- urgent adoption of the PNR directive by the European Parliament in April 2016
- swift completion of legislation under discussion and full implementation of agreed measures, particularly in respect of firearms and precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives
- increasing the feeding and use of European and international databases in the fields of security, travel and migration
- finding ways to secure and obtain more quickly digital evidence
- improving early detection of signs of radicalisation
Council agrees its negotiating position on the proposal for a directive on combating terrorism
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 combating 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.
Ministers discussed and took note of a report prepared by the EU Counterterrorism coordinator on the follow-up on the implementation of measures regarding counterterrorism.
Council adopts conclusions on the fight against the financing of terrorism
The Council adopted conclusions on the action plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing. The Council expects progress on:
- avoiding the use of virtual currencies for terrorist financing
- improving access to information by financial intelligence units
- measures on prepaid cards
- measures against illicit cash movements
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.
Launch Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC)
The European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) was launched following a decision from the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 20 November 2015. It is a platform by which member states can increase information sharing and operational cooperation with regard to the monitoring and investigation of foreign terrorist fighters and the trafficking of illegal firearms and terrorist financing.
European Council calls for stepping up action against terrorism.
The European Council highlighted the need to:
- enhance information sharing
- develop greater cooperation between security services
- implement systematic and coordinated checks at external borders
- rapidly examine the Commission's proposals on firearms
- take further action against terrorist financing
- strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation with countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey and the Western Balkans
- enhance information exchange and information management including interoperability solutions
Commission presents proposals to strengthen EU's external borders
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 at 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.
Council discusses the external dimension of the EU's counter-terrorism work
Foreign affairs ministers assessed 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.
Council confirms agreement reached with Parliament on the EU passenger name record (PNR) directive:
Home affairs ministers approved the compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on the proposed EU PNR data directive for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime. Ministers were also briefed on the implementation of the measures defined in February and November.
Council calls to speed up the implementation of counter-terrorist measures
Justice and home affairs ministers discussed how to strengthen the EU response to terrorism, following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. They adopted a set of conclusions, focusing on:
- finalising the EU passenger name record (PNR) directive before the end of the year
- fighting against the trafficking of firearms
- reinforcing controls at EU external borders
- targeting terrorist financing
- improving information sharing and judicial cooperation
The ministers also adopted conclusions on improving the criminal justice response to radicalisation leading to terrorism and violent extremism.
French President François Hollande invokes mutual defence clause
Defence ministers discussed the reaction to the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015. French President François Hollande has invoked article 42.7 of the Treaty of the European Union, requesting bilateral aid and assistance from the other EU member states. Ministers expressed their unanimous and full support to France and their readiness to provide all the necessary aid and assistance.
G20 statement on the fight against 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 tackle:
- the financing of terrorism
- the conditions conducive to terrorism, including radicalisation and recruitment
- the threat posed by the growing flow of foreign terrorist fighters
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, represented the EU at this summit.
Council adopts conclusions on fighting trafficking of firearms
The Council followed up on the implementation of counter-terrorism measures agreed in February 2015. The Council also adopted conclusions on strengthening measures to fight trafficking in firearms.
Counter-terrorism measures: Council takes stock of progress
Home affairs ministers discussed the implementation of the measures defined in February and exchanged views on the way forward. Ministers took stock of progress and exchanged views on how to take forward the agreed priorities. These discussions took place on the basis of reports from the presidency and the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.
Money laundering: Council approves strengthened rules
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.
Council adopts the regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da'esh threat.
The Council adopted a strategy outlining how the EU and member states are planning to counter the threat posed by ISIL/Da'esh and help restore peace and security in Syria and Iraq.
The EU aims at a comprehensive effort addressing the underlying dynamics of the conflicts, through diplomacy and support for political reforms, economic development and reconciliation between different ethnic groups. For the years 2015 and 2016, the Commission has allocated €1 billion to implement of the strategy.
Council examines the implementation of counter-terrorism measures
Ministers discussed the implementation of the measures agreed in recent counter-terrorism statements. They focused in particular on:
- the reinforced application of the Schengen framework: ministers agreed to implement systematic checks based on risk assessment no later than June 2015
- internet content promoting violent extremism or terrorism: they asked Europol to set up an EU Internet referral unit by July 2015
- trafficking of firearms: they called on the Commission and Europol to propose ways to fight against trafficking of firearms and enhance information exchange and operational cooperation
- EU PNR directive: ministers agreed to actively engage with the European Parliament in order to make decisive progress in the coming months
EU leaders call for specific counter-terrorism measures
EU leaders agreed on a statement to guide the work of the EU and the member states in the coming months. The statement called for specific measures, such as:
- the adoption of a European Passenger Name Records (PNR) directive
- making full use of the existing Schengen framework, including through systematic and coordinated checks of EU citizens at external borders
- increasing cooperation in the fight against trafficking of firearms and terrorist financing
- working to detect and remove internet content promoting terrorism or extremism
- addressing crises and conflicts and engaging more with third countries on security issues
- promoting cooperation with the UN and with other global and regional initiatives
Council decides to step up external action to counter terrorism
The Council decided to step up external action to counter terrorism, in particular in the Mediterranean, Middle East, North Africa, the Gulf and the Sahel:
- cooperation with key partners will be strengthened
- new projects to support capacity building will be launched
- action to counter radicalisation and violent extremism will be intensified
Riga joint statement on counter-terrorism
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015, justice and home affairs ministers issued a joint statement. They emphasised the need to build up the response to the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.
Council discusses how foreign policy can support the fight against terrorism
Following terrorist attacks in Paris, foreign affairs ministers held a debate on how foreign policy can complement the fight against terrorism within the EU. They agreed that action should be taken to:
- improve the exchange of security information with partner countries,
- reinforce cooperation with Arab and Mediterranean countries
- increase efforts to deal with open conflicts and crises
Council adopts EU counter terrorism/foreign fighters strategy
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:
- the political dimension: supporting the Iraqi authorities and the moderate opposition in Syria
- prevention: working with those third countries that are sources of foreign fighters, building capacity regarding strategic communication
- pursuit: improving cooperation with third countries to identify recruitment networks and foreign fighters, strengthening border security in countries surrounding Syria and Iraq
- protection: building regional capacity regarding aviation security, preventing weapons from seeping out of Syria and Iraq
- response: building capacity in the region to respond to terrorist attacks
- engagement with key partners: engaging with regional and other key partners, supporting the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions by all countries
Council discusses further action regarding foreign fighters
Ministers of justice and home affairs held an in-depth discussion on the issue of foreign fighters. They agreed on:
- the urgency as regards finalising the EU PNR directive, calling the European Parliament to adopt its position on the draft directive as soon as possible
- the need to improve checks at the external borders of the Schengen area
- the need to improve the judicial response and, in particular, to update the framework decision on combating terrorism
- the need for improvements in information exchange, highlighting the role of Europol and Eurojust
- the need to accelerate the implementation of existing measures
European Council calls for speeding up the implementation of measures against foreign fighters
The European Council stressed that determined action is required to stem the flow of foreign fighters. It calls for the accelerated implementation of the package of EU measures in support of Member States efforts, as agreed by the Council since June 2013. In this context, the European Council called on the Council and the European Parliament to finalise work on the EU Passenger Name Record proposal before the end of the year. The European Council also underlined the need for close cooperation with third countries.
Council agrees on EU measures to support member states' efforts to tackle foreign fighters
The Justice and Home Affairs Council discussed the issue of foreign fighters and returnees from Syria, based on a report prepared by the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. The report identifies four areas where EU action would be important to support member states:
- information exchange on identification and detection of travel
- criminal justice response
- cooperation with third countries
The Council also invited the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to present a report on the implementation of these measures at its December 2013 meeting.