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EU bolsters defences against terrorism

18 October 2017, 17:32 CET
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EU bolsters defences against terrorism

King - Julian King - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - A package of anti-terrorism measures announced Wednesday will help address vulnerabilities exposed by recent terrorist attacks and make a real difference in enhancing security, says the EU Commission.

"Sadly there can never be zero risk of terrorism, but we are continuing to cut the space terrorists have to prepare and carry out their crimes," said the EU's Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King: "As terrorist tactics change, we are stepping up our support to Member States in meeting these threats: helping protect the public spaces where people gather, while cutting off terrorists' access to dangerous bomb-making materials, and sources of finance."

The measures announced today aim to address vulnerabilities exposed by recent attacks and will support Member States in protecting public spaces and help deprive terrorists of the means to act. The EU executive is also proposing to further strengthen the EU's external action on counter-terrorism — including through Europol — and is recommending the EU open negotiations on a revised Passenger Name Record agreement with Canada.

Protecting public spaces

With terrorists increasingly targeting public and crowded spaces, as shown by the recent attacks in Barcelona, London, Manchester and Stockholm, the Commission is presenting an Action Plan to step up the support to Member States efforts to protect and reduce the vulnerability of public spaces. Measures include:

  • Increased financial support: The Commission is today providing €18.5 million from the Internal Security Fund to support transnational projects improving the protection of public spaces. In 2018, a further €100 million from the Urban Innovative Actions will support cities investing in security solutions.
  • Guidance material: Over the next year, the Commission will issue new guidance material to help Member States address a wide range of issues related to the protection of public spaces and raising public awareness. The guidance will include technical "security by design" solutions to make public spaces more secure while preserving their open and public nature.
  • Exchange of best practices: The Commission will establish a Practitioners' Forum and set up a High Risk Security Network in November to provide a platform for common training and joint exercises to improve preparedness against attacks.
  • Improving cooperation between local actors and the private sector: The Commission will set up an Operators' Forum to encourage public-private security partnerships and engage with private operators such as shopping malls, concert organisers, sports arenas and car rental companies. The involvement of local and regional authorities will be reinforced with a dedicated high-level meeting on best practice for the protection of public spaces.

While the likelihood of such attacks is low, the Commission is today also proposing an Action Plan to step up EU level preparedness, resilience and coordination against attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) substances. Measures proposed today include the creation of an EU CBRN security network and a CBRN knowledge hub to be set up in the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) in Europol.

Depriving terrorists of the means to act

Depriving terrorists of the means to carry out terrorist acts is crucial to prevent further attacks from taking place. The Commission is today presenting additional short-term measures to:

  • Restrict access to substances used to make home-made explosives: The Commission is today presenting a Recommendation setting out immediate steps to prevent the misuse of such substances by terrorists. The Commission is also stepping up its review of the Regulation on explosive precursors with an evaluation that will be followed by an impact assessment during the first half of 2018.
  • Support law enforcement and judicial authorities when they encounter encryption in criminal investigations, without weakening encryption at a more general level or affecting a large or indiscriminate number of people: The Commission is today proposing technical support measures, a new toolbox of techniques, and training, and proposes setting up a network of points of expertise.
  • Tackle terrorist financing: The Commission will look into the obstacles to access financial transaction data in other Member States, and possible EU measures to facilitate and speed up such access.

Reinforcing the EU's external action on counter-terrorism

The Commission is also today proposing to strengthen the EU's external action and cooperation with third countries on counter-terrorism and other serious transnational crime by:

  • Recommending to the Council to authorise the opening of negotiations for a revised Passenger Name Records Agreement with Canada, in line with all the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its opinion of 26 July.
  • Enhancing Europol's cooperation with third countries by presenting, before the end of the year, recommendations to the Council to authorise the opening of negotiations for agreements between the EU and Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey on the transfer of personal data between Europol and these countries to prevent and combat terrorism and serious crimes.

The 11th Security Union Report is also looking at the next steps on countering radicalisation online and offline. Beyond these practical measures for the short term, to be taken over the next 16 months, the Commission is working towards a future European Intelligence Unit, as announced by President Juncker as part of his vision for the European Union by 2025.

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