Fighting terrorism key issue for 2019 European elections

Although MEPs recognise that security will be a key issue in the upcoming elections, Brexit and differences on the causes of radicalisation can weaken any future strategy.
Photo credit: PA International

11 Oct 2018

The chair of the parliament’s special committee on terrorism, Nathalie Griesbeck is fully aware that voters see security as an urgent matter for the EU to tackle. “Today, security is the priority issue for EU citizens, particularly after recent appalling, multiple, terrorist attacks.”

Highlighting a Eurobarometer survey, the French ALDE deputy, pointed out that 49 per cent of those people questioned, believed it will be one of the key issues in the next European elections, in 2019. Griesbeck believes that terrorism poses an existential threat that “affects our democratic values and freedoms.” Stressing that a European response is required.

“Faced with this barbarity that goes beyond our material and immaterial borders, a European response is needed.” But any new strategy had to “observe the balance between the need for security and the respect of fundamental rights.”


According to the TERR committee chair there were numerous challenges that had to be overcome, therefore the EU needed to “maximise the added value of the union in terms of information exchange to prevent terrorists from crossing Europe so easily.”

She also wants to see more done to tackle the roots of terrorism by focusing efforts against radicalisation both online and in the real world. “We also need to reduce the means of action and the fi nancing of terrorist organisations.”

However, with far-right populist parties linking the migration crisis with terrorism. She warned against ‘confusing’ the two issues, but she acknowledged, “the EU needs to strengthen the control of its external borders.”

Griesbeck welcomes the extension of powers for the European state prosecutor’s office – something she had been promoting, for several years. “Our response must be coordinated. As chair of the anti-terrorism committee, I work to create a climate of trust with the member States, who are key to security but who also must meet the needs of citizens by Europeanising this fight.”

“Today, security is the priority for EU citizens,particularly after recent appalling, multiple, terrorist attacks”  TERR committee chair Nathalie Griensbeck

S&D member for the same committee Ana Gomes, agrees with Griesbeck, calling for a ‘coherent’ strategy, and not one just limited to a security approach. However, she wanted more to be done looking at what inspired attackers. “The political motivations of terrorists must be understood, so that we don’t play into their hands.”

She also fears there is not enough recognition of the dangers from possible neo-Nazi terrorists, such as the attack in Norway in 2011, by Anders Breivik that killed 77 people. Gomes also warns against pillorying people from ethnic backgrounds.

“Stigmatising Muslims, refugees or migrants as associated with terrorism, as the extreme right wing does, is dangerous and alienates people and communities whom we need as allies to succeed in the fight against terrorism.”

The Portuguese deputy believes this will also play into the hands of the terrorists by sowing insecurity, discrimination, and human rights violations. Recognising the global nature of today’s terrorist groups. Gomes wants to see any new strategy “be national and European; terrorists know no borders to procure armaments, logistical support or financing.”

Key is the exchange of intelligence in effectively detecting and countering terrorist threats. However, she wants any new initiative encompassing both internal and external policies. There also has to be effective action concerning social inclusion of minorities at national and local levels.

According to Gomes, “radicalisation of individuals is fed by extremist narratives, and by feelings of exclusion and family dysfunctionality in social ghettos in European cities.”

UK Conservative deputy Geoffrey Van Orden also wants to see an improvement in the exchange of information between member states. But accepted “this will be a key challenge post-Brexit.” The UK currentlymaintains close bi-lateral operational ties with various security services across Europe, while also contributing and benefi ting from EU data systems.

Post-Brexit, the anti-terrorist committee ECR vice chair believes, “the UK wants an ambitious and pragmatic future security partnership that protects mutually important capabilities.”

Post-Brexit “the UK wants an ambitious and pragmatic future security partnership that protects mutually important capabilities” UK Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden

This includes rapid and secure data exchange, measures to support cross-border operational cooperation; and continued cooperation with EU law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. “Any new security agreement should be sufficiently flexible to enable dynamic cooperation in response to new threats and refl ecting new technologies.”

Van Orden points out that both the heads of EUROPOL and the EU’s Intelligence and Situation Centre (INTCEN) called for an uninterrupted continuation of UK engagement with their organisations, post-Brexit. He also stresses close cooperation is needed to monitor Isis and other Jihadi fi ghters returning to Europe from wars in the Middle East.

“The European nations (which have primary responsibility for national security), the EU, and the UK face very similar threats and challenges in the coming years and it is essential that we all work closely together in dealing with them.”

Taking a more historical perspective Eva Joly said, “Modern history is dotted by successive attempts of violent extremist individuals transgressing the rules of the political game to express their brutal and absolutist form of demands.”

The Greens/EFA deputy pointed out that “No amount of security laws and technology will ever be enough to prevent a handful of fascistic, jihadist, extremist militants to risk their lives.” For Joly a successful counterterrorist policy won’t be measured by an increasing number of foiled attacks, but by a decreasing number of attacks to foil.

“This entails measures to enhance the human quality of intelligence services and prisons, better monitoring of criminal-terrorist links, and tighter control on weapons and explosives.”

Ultimately any future EU strategy should be “First and foremost about making tomorrow’s plots unthinkable: changing the global setting and building a resilient society.” She wanted more done to address the problems in society that lead towards radicalisation of individuals such as inhumane prisons, lack of care for psychological vulnerabilities, limited basic education, a biased media, and lack of prospects. Whilst also dealing with the confl icts and violence devastating entire regions that fuelled extremism.

According to Joly the most e ective counter to terrorism is to “design a desirable future anchored in this world and not in the simplistic fantasy of a great beyond.” As promised by jihadi terrorist groups.