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Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, the European Union (EU) has been determined to step up the fight against terrorism. With this in mind, it has adopted a framework decision urging EU countries to align their legislation and setting out minimum rules on terrorist offences. After defining such terrorist offences, the framework decision lays down the penalties that EU countries must incorporate in their national legislation.
The framework decision harmonises the definition of terrorist offences in all EU countries by introducing a specific and common definition. Its concept of terrorism is a combination of two elements:
- an objective element, as it refers to a list of instances of serious criminal conduct (murder, bodily injuries, hostage taking, extortion, fabrication of weapons, committing attacks, threatening to commit any of the above, etc.);
- a subjective element, as these acts are deemed to be terrorist offences when committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.
The framework decision defines a terrorist group as a structured organisation consisting of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert, and refers to directing a terrorist group and participating in its activities as offences relating to a terrorist group.
Furthermore, EU countries must ensure that certain intentional acts are punishable as offences linked to terrorist activities even if no terrorist offence is committed. These include:
- public provocation to commit a terrorist offence;
- recruitment and training for terrorism;
- aggravated theft, extortion and falsification of administrative documents with the aim of committing a terrorist offence.
To punish terrorist offences, EU countries must make provision in their national legislation for effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties, which may entail extradition. In addition, EU countries must ensure that penalties are imposed on legal persons where it is shown that the natural person has the power to represent the legal person or authority to exercise control within the legal person that has committed a terrorist offence.
EU countries must take the necessary action to:
- establish their jurisdiction with regard to terrorist offences;
- establish their jurisdiction where they refuse to hand over or extradite a person suspected or convicted of such an offence to another EU country or to a non-EU country;
- coordinate their activities and determine which of them is to prosecute the offenders with the aim of centralising proceedings in a single EU country, when several EU countries are involved.
They will also ensure appropriate assistance for victims and their families (in addition to the measures already provided for in Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA).
The terrorist attacks of September 2001 have led the EU to step up action in this field. This framework decision is thus designed to make the fight against terrorism at EU level more effective. This problem was already discussed at the European Council meetings in Tampere in October 1999 and in Santa Maria da Feira in June 2000.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA||
OJ L 164 of 22.6.2006
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA||
OJ L 330 of 9.12.2008