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Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs
Trust and actions – the two main ingredients for enhancing the EU's role in the fight against terrorism
London Counter Terrorism Conference
London, 19 April 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The emir of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula Nasir al-Wahishi has said that "America’s actions require us to wipe them out of the map completely. America is a cancer that needs to be removed along with the West.”
Al-Wahishi also advises Muslims in the West to “acquire weapons and learn methods of war” and states that Muslims in the West are “living in a place where they can cause great harm to the enemy.”
I do not know how you feel about this threat but I take it very seriously. And this quote explains what we face and why the conference today is so important. And let's not for a second think that the terrorists are stupid. As we discuss current loopholes in the systems, they have surely found new ones and plan to attack us there.
We must therefore never lower the guard in the fight against terrorism.
I see from the programme that I am invited to speak about the role of the European Union as a key counter terrorism actor. These are kind and big words from the organisers. Linked to this, people have asked me if the Lisbon Treaty – now in place for nearly 18 months - is a silver bullet in the fight against terrorism.
My answer has always been "of course not".
The main responsibility for the internal security of Europe and the EU lies, and will always lie, with the Member States.
The UK, for instance, has for many years been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism. And besides working at the national level, the UK has also been very active within the EU to ensure that the Union takes responsibility.
A very good example of this was the development of a comprehensive EU strategy on preventing terrorism under the British EU presidency in 2005.
This strategy with its four strands "prevent, protect, pursue and respond" continues to remain valid and requires action in Member States as well as at EU level.
One thing that has changed since the Lisbon Treaty came into force is that from now on the goal to establish an area of Freedom, Security and Justice is a shared responsibility for the EU and the Member States.
This requires ensuring that the Schengen cooperation, with its absence of internal border controls for persons and goods is respected, while at the same time guaranteeing a high level of security for our European citizens.
This is to be achieved through well thought-through and proportionate measures to prevent and combat crime and terrorism – and not least through increased cooperation between police and judicial authorities.
It also includes mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters and, if necessary, harmonization of criminal laws.
The intention of all this is very good. But what decides the level of cooperation in the end is not a treaty, it is the mutual trust that is indispensible for all successful joint actions.
I am speaking of mutual trust on all levels and between all actors, and I am well aware that the Commission has a lot of work to do. I will do all that I can to earn that trust for my part.
I would assume that the question many of you would like to know the answer to is in what way the European Union can and will contribute to making the UK more secure.
This is a fair question and an important one. I'm convinced that we can assist you in many ways.
Given that measures to ensure Internal Security in the EU have traditionally followed a silo mentality and that policy priorities in this field have been somewhat scattered, I felt the need to set a clear direction for the coming four years.
For that reason the Commission recently adopted "The EU Internal Security Strategy in Action". The aim is to set a comprehensive, shared agenda for addressing the contemporary security challenges of our time.
The Internal Security Strategy identifies five objectives, where the EU should bring real added value: serious and organised crime, terrorism, cybercrime, border-management, and natural and man-made disasters.
Each of these objectives is supported by measurable actions. We do not pretend to be exhaustive in our proposals – much is already going on or planned at national and EU level.
Preventing terrorism and radicalisation is naturally one of the key objectives of the ISS.
Of all the work we do to prevent terrorism, I want to talk to you about three issues where I particularly feel that work on the EU level could lead to a more secure United Kingdom.
Let me start with the work on transport security.
The recently foiled terrorist attacks from Yemen which attempted to use parcel-bombs hidden in air cargo demonstrate a loophole in our security.
In response to this incident, EU Ministers endorsed a report and an action plan on how to enhance air cargo security across Europe. This will need to be implemented promptly by all stakeholders and will be followed up in June both in the Transport Council and between Ministers of Interiors.
I am also glad to see that the EU report is in very close alignment with the UK review of aviation security, which concludes that the role of the European Commission is key toan international response.
Since the majority of international traffic to the UK comes from Europe we have to find European solutions to enhance the security. But let us at the same time be modest and confess that a lot remains to be done.
The second area where we can do a lot more together is on radicalisation and recruitment. I think we can agree that this is a growing concern for the European Union. What happened in Stockholm in December was a tragic reminder of this.
I know that the UK has done a lot in this field. In my discussions with UK officials they often point out that they are willing to share experiences with the rest of the EU on what works in the UK – but equally important on what has not worked as well as it should.
We will certainly take advantage of this offer. And already this afternoon I will visit several practitioners in East London to hear about their experiences.
Given that addressing radicalisation is mainly a local issue you might very well wonder what the added value of the EU is? We will certainly not sit in Brussels and tell Member States how they should deal with radicalisation.
The EU wants to assist Member States in encouraging networks of community activists, law enforcement, academics and others to share and discuss best practice in spotting and addressing radicalisation and recruitment leading to acts of terrorism.
This is based on the belief that radicalisation leading to terrorism can best be contained at a level closest to susceptible individuals in the most affected communities.
It requires close cooperation with local authorities and civil society and empowering key groups in vulnerable communities. The core of action on radicalisation and recruitment is - and should remain - at national, and above all, at local level.
But in order to promote cooperation over borders and between different disciplines, the Commission is preparing the establishment of an EU radicalisation-awareness network in partnership with the Committee of the Regions. The network is to be set up in September this year.
Through an online forum and EU-wide conferences, the network will aim at pooling experiences, knowledge and good practices for enhancing awareness of radicalisation and communication techniques that can challenge terrorist narratives.
To support these activities, the Commission has earmarked additional funds for the coming years –four times more than last year. So I do encourage local actors to apply for EU funding.
This brings me to the third point, Passenger Name Records. In February, the Commission suggested a Directive for all Member States to use Passenger Name Record data to fight serious crime, including terrorism.
I am convinced that a harmonised EU PNR regulations would add real value for security through better monitoring of crime routes to and from the EU; for air carriers through increased legal certainty in the way they already store these data today; and for passengers through clearer rules on remedies and data protection of the information they submit to air carriers or travel agents.
I am happy that my proposal has received very strong support from Member States, and not least the UK. When I visited the UK e-borders last year, I saw for myself how effective such a system can be, and I am sure that the EU can draw lessons from your experience here.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With these three concrete areas, transport security, prevent radicalisation and recruitment, and PNR, we will further enhance security and build trust between Member States and the European institutions. But this is not enough.
An effective response in the fight against terrorism requires intensive international cooperation. In our open European societies, where trade, communications, and people-to-people contacts are our founding elements, we simply cannot build up walls to protect ourselves. This would inevitably imply destroying the very foundations of modern globalised life.
Therefore, before tabling any new proposals or initiatives, I always ask myself if this really will make Europe more secure and if the measure is proportionate.
This is particularly important just after a terrorist attack where politicians are often being pressured to come up with new and quick solutions.
EU actions are very important but we cannot win the fight against terrorism without international cooperation. Therefore, we need to cooperate with like-minded partners to address the challenges posed by international terrorism.
The cooperation with the US is in this respect of fundamental importance. One of the most important things we achieved last year was the EU-US agreement on a terrorist financing tracking programme (TFTP). We have already seen concrete results from this agreement in providing leads on terrorists both in the US and in Europe. And we are now looking at different options for setting up a European way of extracting this kind of data.
Last week I met with Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder in Budapest and it was striking to once again get confirmation that our security challenges are the same. We discussed, for instance, enhanced cooperation on radicalisation as well as on air cargo security and the renewal of the agreement between the EU and the US on Passenger Name records.
To conclude, the fight against terrorism is one of the key challenges to our internal security. And this worries our citizens. A recent Eurobarometer study shows that four out of five Europeans want more EU action against terrorism and serious crime. In line with this, I see a gradual shift from Member States towards the realisation that even in a sensitive area like terrorism there is room for more EU cooperation. I appreciate this confidence.
But I also realise that this support is conditional. My responsibility is to deliver results. And what I have outlined today – actions on radicalisation, transport security and PNR – will be at the centre of my attention for the coming years.
However, success will not only depend on the European Commission. The United Kingdom is an indispensible partner for the EU if we are to succeed in making Europe more secure.
Thank you for your attention.