EU Security Tsar criticises member states for being “slow” to counter terrorist threats

Sir Julian King issues strongly-worded warning that the EU will act against member states who do not enact anti-terror legislation.
Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

26 Aug 2019

Sir Julian King will soon step down from his role as European commissioner for the Security Union and if, as expected, the UK leaves the EU on October 31, he will go down in history as Britain’s last ever EU commissioner.

As he prepares to leave office in a few weeks, King took a swipe at those countries – which he does not name – which have been “slow” to enact EU legislation designed to counter the terrorist threat.

King said, “The work does not stop once measures have been approved at EU level. It is vital that they are then implemented by the member states fully and in a timely manner. This is the only way to ensure the full benefits can be enjoyed.”

He added, “But, unfortunately, this is not always the case.”


He said that the European commission’s recent “Security Union Progress” report “calls out” the member states who have not yet completed the process for various pieces of legislation.

King said that these include the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive; the directive on the control of acquisition and possession of weapons and the directive on combating terrorism.

The official warned, “Let me be clear: The Commission will not hesitate to use its powers under the treaties for enforcing EU law, including the launch of infringement procedures where appropriate, as has been illustrated repeatedly in the past few years.”

For the PNR directive, for example, he said one unnamed member state still needs to notify transposition into national law and another EU country, also not named by him, needs to complete the notification of transposition.

This, said King, was despite the launch of EU infringement procedures a year ago.

He said, “This is an important message for more recent measures which will need to be implemented in the coming months and years, such as the interoperability regulation.”

“Let me be clear: The Commission will not hesitate to use its powers under the treaties for enforcing EU law” Sir Julian King, European commissioner for Security Union

He said he wanted to “underline that our joint work plays an important role in helping keep Europeans safe.”

In a speech, he also condemned some social media companies – which he again did not name – for their “slow and patch” response to EU proposals on tackling online terrorist content.

“The internet,” he noted, “is a vital tool for terrorists. It plays a central role in terrorism, whether through incitement, instruction or glorification.”

“Once online, this evil propaganda spreads like a virus from platform to platform, infecting the minds of the vulnerable. Its potential for causing damage rising dramatically with every hour that it remains online.”

But King added, “The response of the internet platforms to this challenge has, frankly, been too slow and too patchy.”

There had been “lack of sufficient progress” in this area which, he said, was why the Commission proposed legislation, last September, making it mandatory for internet platforms to take down terrorist content within one hour when they receive a removal order from the police or judicial authorities in any EU member state.

If a platform is being used to spread terrorist content, it now has an obligation to make use of “proactive” measures to detect such content and prevent it from reappearing.

In a wide-ranging address to members of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee, King called for “further discussions on what to do” about the issue of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and their families returning from the conflict zone in Iraq and Syria.

The numbers, he told MEPs, are “stark”.

“The internet is a vital tool for terrorists. It plays a central role in terrorism, whether through incitement, instruction or glorification” Sir Julian King

In total, some 5,500 FTFs left for the conflict zone in Iraq and Syria, around 75 percent of whom were men and 25 percent women.

Some 2,400 of them remain there, at least 1,400 have been killed – a number which could be higher in reality – and around 1,600 have returned so far.

There are also around 1,400 children in the region with one or more parents holding EU citizenship, having either been born there or brought by their parents.

Of those who remain, around 600 men and women and 700 children are in detention, mostly in Syria under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The decision on whether or not to repatriate FTFs and their families is the responsibility of the member states but, King said, the EU can “provide support in various ways”.

This includes the investigation and prosecution of FTFs who have returned to Europe, on the prosecution of FTFs in the region, on support to third countries in our neighbourhood and on the issue of children.

Looking to the future, he told deputies on the committee, “This is work we should take forward jointly in the coming months.”

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