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Two years after the attacks in Paris: assessment of the European fight against terrorism

While France commemorates the anniversary of the attacks that occured in November 2015, and that 23 European states have affirmed their joint will to establish a Permanent Structured Cooperation, the first step towards a Europe of defense, the question of the EU’s fight against terrorism is re-emerging. Whereas the authorities welcome the progresses made, the 142 attacks prepared on the European territory in 2016 could not all be thwarted.

Strengthening an operational response to terrorism

Despite terrorism in the EU is not recent, the reaction to this phenomenon only started from the 2000s. The European counter-terrorism strategy addresses this challenge in a global way, through the four pillars of prevention, protection, pursuing and responding. The cooperation between intelligence services, police services and judicial services is gradually being strengthened, between national authorities as much as in European offices such as Frontex, the ECTC (European Counter Terrorism Center) or Europol. In the EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report (TE-SAT) that this last agency published, the successes concerning accomplished investigations and procedures, the rules and border controls tightening, the fight against terrorism financing and the enhanced cooperation between Member States were welcomed.

Cooperation at the heart of the EU fight against terrorism

As terrorism is a global phenomenon, which causes and consequences cross borders, the cooperation instruments implemented by the European Union have to answer it in a global way. Therefore, in addition to actions to support stability, the EU is developing specific programmes dedicated to the fight against – religious, but also political – radicalization and other realities close to terrorism. Africa and the Middle East constitute privileged partners for these measures, through the Instrument contributing to stability and Peace and the  EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. In its desire to encompass all the components of the phenomenon, the EU is linking through them fight against radicalism and other more general measures of national authorities training, economic development in risk areas (including transboundary zones, migrant reception areas and migrant transit routes) and handling of the most fragile populations (women and youth). These subjects will be part of the discussions which will be held during the European Union and the African Union summit, by the end of November. More broadly, the European Union, via its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, acts in conjunction with the UN to counter terrorism internationally.

A need to take account of European civil society

The European Union recently announced its will to finance, through the Horizon 2020 programme, research projects on the subject. Thus, it hopes to develop new governance models, in order to help Member States to fight against radicalization and extremism locally, regionally and nationally. The objective is a better inclusion of religious, political and identity aspects in decisions.

In spite of all its efforts, the impression persists that the EU acts more through reaction than through real action to prevent the terrorist danger. But in the face of the pressures fueled by popular fear and the dissensions that exist between Member States over the loss of sovereign jurisdiction over security matters, how could it be otherwise?


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