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The EU mobilization against the threat posed by Da’esh: spotlight on the EU Counter-Terrorism Policy

The recent fund mobilization to tackle the crisis in Syria and Iraq and the threat posed by Da’esh invites us to look at the EU counter-terrorism policy and its components.

The European Commission and the High Representative presented on February 6th the initial stages of a global strategy on tackling the crisis in Syria and Iraq and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly referred to as Da’esh.
An additional 1 billion euro in funding for the next two years has been agreed upon to ensure funding for 3 essential priorities: relief, stabilization and development of the region as well as countering the threat posed by terrorist organizations. This set of measures, both humanitarian and political, targets Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Among these are the supply of basic services, the set up of education and training programs, the strengthening of anti-radicalization programs, the fight against the financing of terrorism and the improvement of border controls.
This recent fund mobilization invites us to look at the EU counter-terrorism policy, its evolutions, components and limitations.

The EU Counter-Terrorism Policy: evolutions, components, limitations

The Amsterdam Treaty created the bases for action by the EU which then only involved a few States. This action intensified with the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and in Europe in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005.
The EU works on preventing and suppressing terrorist acts and on protecting infrastructures and citizens. Therefore, the EU counter-terrorism policy consists of three components: “prevention”, “protection” and “prosecution”.
As regards prevention, the EU is committed to fighting the radicalization and recruitment of terrorists.
The actions led regarding the protection aspect of this policy aim at enhancing cyber-security, transport security and the security of explosives and at improving border security. In this regard, it should be noted that the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) and the Visa Information System (VIS) are currently being developed.
As far as the strand “prosecution” is concerned, several legislative instruments relating to data gathering and exchange and to the improvement of cross-border cooperation have been set up.  The main tools related to the financing of terrorism are the directive on money laundering adopted in 2005 coupled with the 2005 regulation on controls of cash entering and leaving the EU.
Furthermore, the framework decisions on simplifying the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities and on the European evidence warrant were adopted in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Europol and Eurojust also play a crucial role as regards the prosecution of terrorism.  
The EU counter-terrorism strategy also includes horizontal issues, which are essential to its implementation. These concern mainly the respect for fundamental rights or the strengthening of the cooperation with external partners such as the United Nations and with non-EU countries, notably the United States.
Having laid the basic foundations of the EU counter-terrorism policy, we can now question its efficacy.  

The efficacy of the EU counter-terrorism strategy is constantly being called into question, and even more so in the view of recent events. It has been decided that the European summit that will be held on February 12th will be devoted to the fight against terrorism, a decision following the attack on Charlie Hebdo.  
There is a vast amount of criticisms about the EU conter-terrorism policy. The most recent ones highlight one of the limitations of this policy: the fact that the Member States consider that intelligence must come under the sovereignty of each nation and that they favor bilateral cooperation.  
The solutions to remedy this shortcoming are equally numerous but remain unsatisfactory and reduced to “announcement effects”. Indeed, setting up a new body in Brussels in an already very crowded institutional landscape would not solve the problem.  Only the strengthening of existing devices and bodies as well as the improvement of the cooperation between national and European services could do so.


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