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EU responses to terrorist threat & its effects

Vice-President Franco FRATTINI

European Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security

"Responses to the threat of terrorism and effects on communities”

EU JHA Committees Conference on "responses to the threat of terrorism and effects on communities"

Since the devastating attacks of 11 September 2001, the Commission has made the fight against terrorism one of its top priorities. The attacks in Madrid and London reinforced the EU’s determination to combat terrorism and confirmed the need for a comprehensive response to the terrorist threat.

Terrorism has changed our daily lives in a multitude of ways. Whether we want it or not, some of our most basic activities and reactions have changed as a result of recent terrorist incidents. Such fundamental actions as taking the bus or metro, getting on a plane or even walking the streets are often no longer done without at least a hint of reflection. We catch ourselves on choosing holiday destinations according to different criteria than we used to. And most unfortunate of all, terrorism may have influenced the way we look at people coming from a different culture, affecting our traditional sympathy for cultural differences.

Terrorism has also changed the expectations of European citizens. A recent Eurobarometer survey has shown that 91% of EU citizens expect the EU to take action to fight terrorism and to maintain peace and security. Such a strong message cannot be ignored.

It must be made clear, that the fight against terrorism has to be based on a common effort. Discussions cannot be limited to high level policy makers just as they cannot simply be taking place at national or EU level.

Each and every European citizen has a role to play. In this context, the involvement and interaction with minority communities is of extreme importance. By helping to build a common understanding and even more so, an inclusive national identity, we are enhancing the stability of the European Union and its Member States, in the interest of piece and prosperity. Inclusiveness is the key to our successful response to the terrorist threat.

My intention today is to first give you a general overview of the EU’s efforts in the field of combating terrorism. I will then go on to present my views on the issue of violent radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. Finally, I will offer some thoughts on involving minority communities in the fight against terrorism.

***

In the aftermath of the terrorist outrage which struck Madrid and the European Union as a whole on 11 March 2004, the European Council agreed on a set of strategic objectives which have directed the Union’s fight against terrorism since then. At its meeting in June 2004 the European Council endorsed the revised EU Plan of Action on Combating Terrorism, which, along with the Hague Programme, forms the basis for the development of new tools in the fight against terrorism.

The Action Plan sets out the EU’s activities in the counter-terrorism field and sets deadlines for agreeing new measures. The Action Plan has proved a very useful tool. Specific policies are being shaped in areas such as the prevention of and fight against the financing of terrorism, dialogue with civil society, protection of critical infrastructures and information policy. The Action Plan is currently being reviewed to ensure it is kept up to date.

The terrorist threat must be addressed in a comprehensive fashion. It is my belief that such a comprehensive approach to the fight against terrorism requires adequate measures concerning:

• the prevention of terrorism;

• protection against terrorism;

• the prosecution of terrorists; and

• response to terrorist threats and attacks.

We need to work in all these areas in order to maximise the security of the European Union and its citizens. I strongly feel that based on this foundation, we can build an effective network of security against the grueling network of terror.

Only the prevention of terrorism can guarantee our success in the long run. Preventing people from turning to terrorism within the EU and internationally, as well as identifying and addressing the factors which can contribute to violent radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism are key priorities on my counter-terrorism agenda.

A wide range of protective measures are currently in the pipeline. Intensive work is being done to strengthen the protection of critical infrastructure in Europe. To this end I have put forward a Green Paper on the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP), which outlines a number of policy options for improving the protection of key European and national infrastructures. In this respect, I am very keen on promoting an improved exchange of information between EU Member States so that more experienced partners will be able to share their knowledge in the interest of greater security for all of Europe. Ensuring greater security of firearms and explosives as well investing in security research will also be crucial for enhancing the EU’s protective capacity. Continuing support for the victims of terrorism will be an important element of the EU’s future actions.

It is clear that the efficient prosecution of terrorists is key for our long-term success. Those who plan or commit terrorist acts must be caught, brought to justice and tried in a reasonable period of time in compliance with the principle of fair trail.

Undoubtedly, the operational responsibility for these activities falls primarily on national intelligence, law enforcement and prosecution services. The Commission however plays a very important role in terms of proposing EU legislation corresponding to the needs of our common area of security and justice. Our aim is to give the relevant national services suitable tools for efficiently pursuing and prosecuting terrorists, to set up frameworks for the exchange of information. This is an area where action at the European level can bring clear benefits.

Just by way of example, on my initiative, the Commission recently adopted a proposal for a Framework Decision on the “principle of availability”, which will greatly facilitate access to information for law enforcement authorities. My services are also currently assessing the need to put forward specific legislation to inter-connect national DNA databases, which would accelerate the potential identification of authors of serious crimes such as terrorist attacks. Moreover, I see a strong need to address the issue of the prevention of the financing of terrorism. Recent developments in this respect include the Third Money Laundering Directive. I also intend to put forward shortly a Communication setting out an “EU Code of Conduct” to prevent misuse of charities by terrorists. The same Communication will recommend reinforced national coordination and information exchange structures on terrorist financing. Europe needs such structures in order to ensure that relevant information is produced, shared and acted upon.

Finally, I must stress that our response to the terrorist threat must be swift, coordinated and efficient. The development of a true crisis and consequence management capacity is needed in order to minimise the terrorist threat and the effects of a potential attack. Only a well-organised and effective response system can guarantee an expeditious return to normality.

In all our actions, we are committed to ensuring that fundamental rights are fully respected, thereby striking the right balance between freedom, security and justice. The protection of fundamental rights is entrenched in European culture and is always present in our activities. It is a priority for the Commission and for me personally. This is the context within which I am developing legislation concerning data protection. Sharing information amongst law enforcement and judicial authorities will require a parallel instrument on data protection in the law enforcement field. In this respect, the relevant proposal for a Framework Decision was recently adopted by the Commission.

***

In order to successfully combat terrorism, we must first pose the question why certain people are ready to promote terrorism and to throw themselves into actions that cause the deaths of so many innocent lives. It is for this reason that I personally and the Commission as a whole are dedicated to addressing the issue of violent radicalization and terrorist recruitment as part of a broader preventive strategy in the counter-terrorism field.

On my initiative the Commission adopted, on 21 September 2005, a Communication on ‘Terrorist Recruitment: addressing the factors contributing to violent radicalisation’, which constitutes the Commission’s initial contribution to an EU-wide strategy on the subject.

The Communication reports on the Commission’s ongoing activities in the area and proposes possible ways in which work in various fields within its competence could be channelled more effectively into addressing the issue of violent radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. The actions and recommendations presented in the Communication are a combination of soft and hard measures and are to be viewed as complementary to, and in support of, current national efforts.

In summary, the Communication describes what is being done and what more can be done in relation to the following specific issues:

• Broadcast media and the internet. One of the instruments available here is the Television without Frontiers Directive which already prohibits incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality in broadcasts (also in relation to third country programmes). The system has proven its worth. Another instrument is the E-Commerce Directive, which can be used to remove terrorist propaganda from the Internet.

• Education, youth engagement and European citizenship. The “Youth” programme contributes towards preventing violent behaviour from taking root in young people by helping develop understanding of the cultural diversity of Europe and its fundamental common values. The “Culture” Programme also finances activities linked to the promotion of intercultural dialogue as well as activities to enhance the cultural diversity of Europe by promoting understanding among people from different countries. We are keen on promoting the concept of an active European Citizenship.

• Encouraging Integration, Inter-cultural Dialogue and Dialogue with Religions. I intend to come back to this specific issue in a few minutes.

• Law enforcement authorities and security services. I believe it is necessary for police and law enforcement authorities to engage more at the local level with youth. I encourage the Member States to exchange best practices concerning the recruitment into police and law enforcement services of people from different backgrounds.

• Expert networks. As the European Union requires more extensive analysis of violent radicalisation, I am committed to creating a network of European experts dealing with the topic of violent radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. The network will contribute to better policy-making in the future.

• External relations. I believe that dialogue with and technical assistance to third countries and regional partners has to be an integral part of our approach to addressing violent radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. We must take concrete steps to prevent state fragility at an early stage, before a possible ‘breeding ground’ for terrorism may emerge.

Clearly, the instruments I have just described do not constitute an exhaustive list. A lot more work still has to be done. My personal commitment to this issue however is already in place.

On a more general level, I believe that significant research still has to be made into the root causes of violent radicalization. It is however already clear, that social factors may play an important role in the process. Violent radicalisation can often stem from a combination of an individual’s negative feelings of exclusion, existing alongside positive mobilising feelings about becoming part of a group and taking actions for change. The dissemination of propaganda and easy access to violent radical groups has a strong effect on the entire process.

***

Despite the fact that much has already been done, it is important to underline that our counter-terrorism efforts are an ongoing process requiring the involvement and support of all European citizens, the Member States and the European institutions. As I said at the beginning of my presentation, inclusiveness is the key to our successful response to the terrorist threat.

The terrorist attacks in London and before that in Madrid highlighted the fact that the breeding grounds for violent radicalisation and terrorist activities can also be found within our European societies.

This finding has been painful because it contradicts the commonly held belief that the founding principles of the European Union, i.e. the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, are shared or at least respected by all our citizens.

Allow me to develop in more detail three elements from our policy on combating violent radicalisation and terrorism recruitment, which are geared toward involving minority communities in the fight against terrorism: integration, inter-religious dialogue, and inter-cultural dialogue.

The successful integration of minority communities is crucial for the wellbeing and development of the European Union and its citizens. The integration of immigrants and their second and third generation descendents into our society is of particular relevance for creating a feeling of belonging to European society – that’s what we call European Citzenship – and acquiescence of our basic values.

Successful integration should prevent the emergence of sentiments of perceived or real injustice or exclusion which are often referred to as reasons for home-grown violent radicalisation. What must be underlined however is that in general, integration policies have worked and that in the majority of cases, third-country nationals have integrated well within the Member States of the EU. However, where integration fails, it can provide fertile ground for violent radicalisation to develop.

The European Commission is committed to a holistic approach to integration that includes not only access to the labour market but also measures which address social, cultural, religious, and linguistic differences. The importance of integration is highlighted by the fact that the European Commission recently adopted a policy paper that provides a framework for the integration of third-country nationals in the EU [Communication: A common Agenda for Integration].

I believe that inter-religious dialogue must be strengthened with a view to eliminating barriers and developing understanding of cultural diversities based on religious ideas. It is clear, that such a dialogue is not always easy, but the benefits of progress in this area would undoubtedly outweigh the potential costs. Over several years, the Commission has established a wide network of different contacts with a large number of confessional and non-confessional partners. We have organized conferences, seminars and other meetings with a view to strengthening this dialogue. Our unequivocal support for inter-religious dialogue will continue. I believe that such discussions can be very beneficial for a number of key issues including the prevention of violent radicalisation. Inter-religious dialogue will most definitely be encouraged.

The Commission is deeply interested and strongly supports the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue. We will shortly be launching the proposal that 2008 should become the Year of Intercultural Dialogue which would trigger a broad variety of activities in all 25 EU Member States.

***

Finally, as a concluding remark, I would like to underline that in our fight against terrorism, as in all our other actions, we must always maintain the very highest levels of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. This being said, I would like to stress that I see no inherent contradiction between the “right to security”, which is basically the right to life, and other fundamental rights. Without security, we cannot enjoy other civil liberties. To be secure is a basic human right! I therefore contest the affirmation that increasing security comes necessarily at the expense of civil liberties.

What is essential is that we remain credible and adopt counter-terrorism measures that are necessary, proportionate and legitimate for the declared objective. The protection of fundamental rights is deeply rooted in our culture and societies.

The respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, apart from being a laudable stand-alone goal, is also a tool for destroying the root causes of terrorism because in an environment where tolerance and freedom reigns, terrorism or sympathy towards terrorists can never thrive.

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