In an effort to prevent terror attacks, the European Commission presented on October 18 alongside its 11th Security Union Report a set of operational and practical measures to better defend EU citizens against terrorist threats and deliver a Europe that protects.
Recent attacks in Barcelona, London, Manchester and Stockholm, have shown that terrorists are increasingly targeting public and crowded spaces.
As announced by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union Address, the measures 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 Commission said the EC is also proposing to further strengthen the EU’s external action on counter-terrorism and is recommending the EU open negotiations on a revised Passenger Name Record agreement with Canada.
Measures would enhance 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 proposals to better protect public spaces include increased financial support of €118.5 million over the next year, new guidance material, forums for the exchange of best practices to help Member States and improving cooperation between local actors and the private sector.
New measures to deprive terrorists of the means to act include restricting access to substances used to make home-made explosives, support for law enforcement and judicial authorities when they encounter encryption in criminal investigations and greater efforts to tackle terrorist financing.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Europe would never give in to terrorists who attack the bloc’s security and freedoms. “Europeans demand that national governments and the EU tackle these risks with determination,” he said. “The new actions announced today will help Member States to deprive terrorists of the means to carry out their evil acts and will also better protect our public spaces, and thus our way of life,” he added.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos noted that terrorism knows no borders. “We will only be able to fight it effectively if we do so jointly – both within the EU and with our partners on a global scale. Effective exchange of information such as Passenger Name Records is critical for the security of our citizens, which is why today we recommend to the Council to authorise negotiations for a revised agreement with Canada and why we will propose to have international agreements between Europol and key countries. We will also continue working with our Member States towards the creation of a future European Intelligence Unit in the long term,” he said.
Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King acknowledged that 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. 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 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 said the EC is working towards a future European Intelligence Unit.
The European Agenda on Security guides the Commission’s work in security, setting out the main actions to ensure an effective EU response to terrorism and security threats, including countering radicalisation, boosting cybersecurity, cutting terrorist financing as well as improving information exchange. Since the adoption of the Agenda, significant progress has been made in its implementation, paving the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union.
The EU has so far funded 48 security research projects related to the protection of public spaces under the Seventh Framework Programme and Horizon 2020 for a total amount of €195 million.
The Internal Security Fund (ISF) was set up for the period 2014-20 to promote the achievement of an efficient and genuine Security Union, law enforcement cooperation and improve the management of the EU’s external borders.
Measures to boost EU security include, rail, road, aviation and maritime transport.
Because its infrastructure is by nature open, rail transport is a high risk target. In June 2017, the Commission, along with Member States, launched a common railway risk assessment and is working on further measures to improve passenger railway security, the Commission said.
In road transport, the Commission is developing a best-practice security guidance toolkit for the end of 2017 focusing on truck security to address the risk of hijacking and theft of trucks used in ramming attacks, while new technologies are also being explored, such as collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking.
While the aviation sector is already a well-protected sector, the Commission will further enhance airport security by providing guidance on the protection of landside areas with a focus on passenger flows.
The Commission said the EC will also continue enhancing maritime transport security, in particular to step up the protection of ports, container ships and passenger transport ships such as ferries and cruise ships.