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Brussels, 12 March 2004

EU Counter Terrorism efforts in JHA field


1. Long-standing commitment

    a) National experience

Terrorism from domestic or foreign origins is not a new experience in Europe, as for many Member States it has rather been a regularthreat over many years. Several European states have a long history of terrorist activities and European citizens and governments have been confronted with its different faces. Hence, the affected EU Member States had already developed efficient national structures and legislation to counter terrorism and to co-operate with each other and third countries, i.e. the USA.

    b) European experience

The Madrid European Council in 1995 established in its conclusions that terrorism should be regarded as a threat to democracy, to the free exercise of human rights and economic and social development. It was acknowledged that since terrorism increasingly operates on a transnational scale, it cannot be dealt with effectively solely by means of isolated action and using each individual State's own resources. Later on, the Treaty of Amsterdam referred to the fight against terrorism, amongst other serious forms of crime. The issue was also addressed in 1998 in the Vienna Action Plan to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and also in the conclusions of the Tampere Council of 1999.

Regarding the operational sphere, intergovernmental European-wide cooperation started as early as1975 on issues of terrorism and internal security in the frame-work of the TREVI Group.

2. The impact of 11th September the EU early reaction

The attacks of September 11 showed that the phenomenon of terrorism was not limited to the national or regional sphere and that the fight against terrorism had to be coordinated in the widest international context. Terrorist acts are committed by increasingly internationalised networks funded primarily by non-state state actors. Thus, terrorism has grown into an increasingly unpredictable menace that undermines the openness and tolerance of our societies and poses a growing threat to the whole world. Preventing and combating terrorism has become one of the European Union's greatest challenges, to be implemented through a co-ordinated multidisciplinary effort, which is compatible with respect for fundamental rights.

Due to the long history and collective experience of the fight against terrorism in Europe, the European legal and institutional structure in the area of Justice and Home Affairs was able to adapt quickly to the increased demands it faced in the wake of 11th September. On 20th September 2001, a range of JHA measures to fight terrorism weres adopted by a special JHA Council meeting followed by the adoption of a comprehensive EU Action Plan to Fight terrorism at an extraordinary European Council on 21 September 2001.

A detailed "Road Map" as regards the implementation of the Action Plan was drawn up in October 2001 and is regularly updated in order to follow up the implementation of the range of initiatives and measures identified.

3. Recent JHA progress in implementing the Action Plan

European judicial and law enforcement cooperation has been at the forefront of the fight against domestic and international terrorism for a long time. Expertise about terrorist networks was developed primarily within the judicial, law enforcement and intelligence communities and it is here that any effective strategy for countering terrorist attacks has to begin.

Counter-terrorist measures within the JHA sphere have been followed-up in the following six areas: (1) judicial cooperation, (2) counter terrorism services co-operation (police and intelligence services), (3) financing of terrorism and (4) border controls and (5) other measures (6) external JHA measures.

    1) Judicial Cooperation

Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on Combating Terrorism

The FD aims at approximating the definition of terrorist offences in all Member States as well as at establishing a common minimum threshold for penalties and sanctions relating to terrorist offences, as well as rules on the competence of Member States' jurisdiction.

The introduction of this common framework facilitates police and judicial co-operation and aligns the criminal law in the Member States so that terrorism is fought and prosecuted in the same manner all over Europe. Furthermore, the existence of a common framework within the Union will also facilitate closer co-operation with third countries and the implementation of international instruments related to the prevention and suppression of terrorism (i.e. UN conventions or UNSCR 1373).

Council Framework Decision of 13 of June 2002 on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States.

The aim of this instrument is to facilitate extradition between Member States by replacing existing instruments, namely extradition conventions, by faster and simpler surrender procedures involving national judicial, rather than political, authorities. The mechanism is based on the mutual recognition of court judgements across the Union.

The Council Framework Decision of 22nd July 2003 on the Execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence establishes the rules under which a Member State recognises and executes in its territory a freezing order issued by a judicial authority of another Member State in the framework of criminal proceedings. This form of automatic mutual recognition of freezing orders for the purpose of securing evidence or the subsequent confiscation of property enables the immediate execution of freezing orders.

Eurojust was established by Council Decision of 28 February 2002 as an independent body with legal personality, whose objectives are: to improve the co-ordination of investigations and prosecutions in MS's, to facilitate the execution of international mutual assistance and extradition requests and to support investigations of the competent authorities of MS's.

The proposed Framework Decision on Attacks against Information System will require Member States to establish the criminal offence of illegal access to information systems and provide penalties which are effective, proportionate and dissuasive, including custodial sentences in serious cases.

    2) Counter Terrorist Services Cooperation

Council Framework Decision of 20 June 2002 on Joint Investigation Teams provides that the competent authorities of two or more MS's may set up a Team for a specific purpose and a limited period, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the MS's setting up the team.

Council recommendation of 26 April 2002 on Multi-national ad-hoc teams for exchanging information on terrorists in the pre-criminal investigative phase (namely, for intelligence services). In contrast to the full-scale judicial enquiry possible through the setting-up of Joint Investigation Teams, this recommendation focuses on preventive and operational measures to fight terrorism. The prerequisite for starting the teams' activities is to ascertain, on the basis of preliminary information-gathering that a terrorist act is going to be or is in the process of being committed.

Europol was given a central role in the fight against terrorism after the 11th September. The Counter Terrorism Unit is tasked with collecting, sharing and analysing information concerning international terrorism through the Analytical Work File on Islamic Terrorism based on the contributions from MS. Europol also produces every year a "Situation and Trends Report on the terrorist activity in the EU" (TE-SAT).

Europol can effectively participate, if requested by a MS, in the above mentioned Joint Investigations Teams and Multinational ad hoc teams.

The mechanism for evaluating the legal systems and their implementation at a national level in the fight against terrorism (Council Decision of 28.11.2003) assesses the exchange of information in the Member States relating to terrorist activities between law enforcement and intelligence services. It also assesses the implementation of the EU and UN measures to counter terrorism, including the implementation of the EU FD on Terrorism and the UNSR 1373 (2001). This evaluation exercise will be extended to the ten new MS.

Council Recommendation of 28 November 2002 on terrorist profiles underlines as a central element of the enhanced struggle against terrorism, the intensification of cooperation between Europol and the authorities in MS responsible for combating terrorism.

Operational law-enforcement co-operation: The EU facilitates operational cooperation in the fight against terrorism through establishing improved forms of information exchange among the police and intelligence communities tasked with the fight against terrorism.

The Terrorist Working Group (TWG) assesses the terrorist threat every six months and keeps updated a common list identifying the most significant terrorist organisations. The TWG is also tasked with defining new co-operation instruments.

The EU Police Chiefs Task Force and the heads of EU Counter Terrorist Units meets regularly in order to exchange information and experiences.

    3) Financing of Terrorism

Terrorists cannot be effective without the ability to move money efficiently through the global financial system. Following September 11, the methods of financing terrorism came under particular scrutiny. The EU responded quickly in supporting action by the UN and other bodies and advances its own initiatives in this area. The cutting of terrorist funds is one of the main fields of action on which EU measures focus, in particular through the adoption of the second Anti-Money Laundering Directive adopted in December 2001.

    4) Border controls

In the field of border and immigration control, several measures relate, albeit not exclusively, to the fight against terrorism specifically in the field of border controls. Sound and efficient border management is essential in the fight against terrorism since it contributes, among other things, to the fight against organised crime and illegal immigration as well as to the high level of internal security that citizens are entitled to. The Community and Member States have developed a wide range of measures including improved security features of visas and travel documents, and strengthening the controls and surveillance of external borders through improved coordination and joint operations. Key initiatives include:

The Commission Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders (11.11.2003) the purpose of the agency is to coordinate operational activities of Member States at the external borders and facilitate the application of the Schengen acquis in order to ensure a high level of control of persons and surveillance of the external borders.

Two draft proposals from the Commission (24.9.2003) lay down a uniform format for visas and for residence permits for third country nationals. The Commission's intention is to integrate biometric identifiers in passports in a harmonised way to ensure interoperability, i. a. within the SIS II.

    5) Other measures to counter terrorist harm.

Pilot project for the victims of terrorist acts (2004): The Commission is going to launch a pilot project intended to bringing in a tangible measure of European solidarity, borne by the EU budget, to the aid to be provided for victims of terrorist attacks carried out on European Union territory.

Programme on cooperation in the EU for preventing and limiting the consequences of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorist threats: An EU programme was adopted on 20 December 2002 to improve co-operation between MS by making use of the different instruments that were already in place (i.e.; the Rapid Alert Systems), and by developing new ones. The program also provides a procedure to identify further actions that need to be taken in order to create the best possible protection of the population of the EU.

    6) External JHA measures

The fight against terrorism has become an integral part of the EU's external relations. JHA external measures to combat terrorism have manifested themselves at the multilateral level, through political cooperation and dialogue, and in support to third countries to improve their counter-terrorism capacities

At the multilateral level, the EU has been actively involved in the work of such international bodies as the UNCTC, UNODC, OSCE and FATF. The work of the G8 Roma/Lyon group has become an increasingly important focus of Commission work with others, particularly in the area of travel security.

In addition to the particular attention paid to developing cooperation with the US, various mechanisms have been developed to integrate terrorism into the EU's relations with other third countries, such as joint statements on the fight against terrorism adopted with Russia, Canada and Japan. Counter terrorism clauses are also systematically included in agreements with third countries.

The EC also has an extensive track record in providing JHA assistance, through such programmes as PHARE, CARDS, TACIS and MEDA, to support the efforts of third countries to comply with key multilateral instruments (particularly UNSCR 1373) in such priority areas as: border management; police cooperation; judicial capacity building and combating terrorist financing.

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