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Fight against terrorism: prevention, preparedness and response
Following the attacks in Madrid in March 2004, the European Union (EU) is proposing to intensify and enhance its action to combat terrorism. To this end, the European Commission has decided to increase the involvement of civil society in measures designed to improve its protection. It is also proposing to take preventive action in order to avoid terrorist attacks as well as to ensure that it is fully prepared to respond effectively. As part of this strategy, it would like to make fighting terrorism an integral part of general EU policy.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 20 October 2004 Prevention, preparedness and response to terrorist attacks [COM(2004) 698 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In order to create a European area of freedom, security and justice, the Commission is proposing to involve civil society in the fight against terrorism and to step up its protection. It also intends to develop an integrated approach combining prevention of and response to terrorist threats and attacks.
Protecting and mobilising civil society
The Commission is proposing to involve civil society in the fight against terrorism. This will mean national parliaments, economic agents, civil society organisations and all European citizens participating in the development of effective tools to combat terrorism.
The Commission is also convinced there is a need for action in the following areas:
- Defending fundamental rights against violent radicalisation. The Commission is aiming to protect fundamental rights and avoid violent social radicalisation. To this end, it plans to work with the Council drawing on existing EU policies and instruments.
- Involving the private and public sectors. The Commission intends to encourage the private and public sectors to enter into dialogue, to exchange information and to coordinate methodology in face of the need to step up EU security.
- Supporting the victims of terrorism. The Commission plans to develop projects to assist the victims of terrorism. It would also like to raise public awareness of terrorist threat, notably through commemorative action. And so, 11 March 2005 will be the first European Day of the Victims of Terrorism, and the Commission and the Council will mark the occasion by producing a memorial report dedicated to the victims.
An integrated approach to prevention, preparedness and response to terrorist attacks
The Commission is proposing to develop an integrated approach combining prevention of and response to terrorist attacks. This will involve mainstreaming police cooperation and judicial cooperation in overall policy and will be facilitated by the Constitutional Treaty. The aim is to use existing tools and possibly create new ones to improve preparedness for and response to terrorist attacks.
The fight against terrorism must be fully integrated into EU external policy. The Commission plans to build on existing cooperation and assistance to pursue a collaborative approach with recipient countries. Part of this strategy will involve developing the security aspects of transport and energy in both the Member States and non-member countries.
The Commission would like to develop cultural dialogue with the Islamic world, addressing the underlying factors of terrorism and tackling the links between international organised crime and terrorism.
Integrating European and national systems
The Commission intends to equip the EU with the resources needed to react effectively in the event of a terrorist attack. To this end, it has developed a rapid alert system and a civil protection system operating on a 24/7 basis and, by way of back-up, is now considering establishing a central European structure to optimise the operation of national command centres and crisis rooms.
Communicating with the public
An efficient communications and information system is necessary to alert the public to possible terrorist threats and attacks. Detecting and analysing threats and alerting the population promptly can minimalise the impact of such attacks. Member States are currently examining GSM cell-broadcast techniques and the Commission is working on introducing a dialogue between emergency service operators and the authorities.
Linking up with the law enforcement community
The Commission is proposing to step up participation by and collaboration between law enforcement and internal security authorities resulting in the sharing of access to alerts and to information on terrorist groups. It intends to increase Europol involvement in the fight against terrorist financing and the protection of critical infrastructures. It also believes that Europol should host a law enforcement alert mechanism.
Reinforcing scientific and technical research in the area of security is another of the Commission's key objectives. To this end, it is advocating the funding of a European security research programme that would focus on:
- fighting terrorist financing,
- protecting critical infrastructures,
- developing consequence management,
- cyber security.
Role of the private sector
The Commission points out that the private sector has a key role to play in the putting in place of solutions to combat terrorism - contributing to the security enhancement of goods and services, monitoring financial flows and reinforcing the resilience of critical infrastructures.
The Commission's proposals here are based on the objectives set by the Brussels European Council on 25 March in its Declaration on combating terrorism. The aim is to achieve greater security in the manufacture, transport and storage of explosives, firearms and the like in an attempt to starve terrorist organisations of the components of their trade.
This Commission communication is a response to the terrorist attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004. It is one of four communications, all proposing solutions to the priority problems addressed by the European Council in Brussels on 18 June 2004 in the Revised EU action plan on combating terrorism [PDF ]:
- prevention of terrorist attacks and consequence management,
- protection of critical infrastructures,
- financing of terrorism.