European Commission presents new Counter Terrorism Agenda
The European Commission has presented a new Counter Terrorism Agenda for the EU to step up the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and boost the EU's resilience to terrorist threats.
The agenda seeks to support Member States in better anticipating, preventing, protecting and responding to the terrorist threat. Europol, the EU Agency for law enforcement cooperation, will deliver better operational support to Member States' investigations under the revised mandate.
The Counter-Terrorism Agenda aims to: identify vulnerabilities and build capacity to anticipate threats’ prevent attacks by addressing radicalisation; promote security by design and reduce vulnerabilities to protect cities and people; increase operational support, prosecution and victims' rights to better respond to attacks; and create a stronger mandate for Europol.
On the last point, the commission is proposing to strengthen the mandate of Europol, the EU Agency for law enforcement cooperation. Given that terrorists often abuse services offered by private companies to recruit followers, plan attacks, and disseminate propaganda inciting further attacks, the revised mandate will help Europol cooperate effectively with private parties, and transmit relevant evidence to Member States. For example, Europol will be able to act as a focal point in case it is not clear which Member State has jurisdiction.
The new mandate will also allow Europol to process large and complex datasets; to improve cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor's Office as well as with non-EU partner countries; and to help develop new technologies that match law enforcement needs, strengthening Europol's data protection framework and parliamentary oversight.
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “The inclusive and rights-based foundations of our Union are our strongest protection against the threat of terrorism. By building inclusive societies where everyone can find their place, we reduce the appeal of extremist narratives. At the same time, the European way of life is not optional and we must do all in our power to prevent those that seek to undo it. With today's Counter-Terrorism Agenda we are putting the focus on investing in the resilience of our societies with measures to better counter radicalisation and to protect our public spaces from attacks through targeted measures.”
Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said of the proposals: “The premise of this proposal is flawed. It falsely posits that more surveillance and more restrictions on our freedom of expression are the price we have to pay for our safety, but our human rights become more important in times of crisis, not less. The agenda takes a wrecking ball to our rights, proudly targeting encryption and expanding surveillance, including via the use of drones in public spaces.
“This proposal makes no secret of its intent to increase investment in technologies to predict ‘abnormal or deviant behaviour and radicalisation risks’. It’s a mistake to think that these technologies are neutral. We know that they often target people of certain racial, religious and ethnic groups. Such profiling, like so many other counter terrorism measures, has a discriminatory impact primarily on Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim.
“Many of these measures threaten to violate the right to freedom of expression, particularly by targeting online activity, including non-violent speech. The EU must ensure that all lawful forms of expression are protected, including speech that is controversial or offensive. Jeopardising human rights and stigmatising minority groups will not make us safer, it will only stoke divisions.”