MEPs urge for stepping up response to terrorist threats

The Commission will put forward a new agenda in this respect in December

The recent heinous terrorist attacks in Nice, near Paris, and in Vienna, have put the issue of security at the forefront of various forums and formats over the past two weeks. France and Austria last week launched a mini-summit focused on stepping up the fight against terrorism. MEPs also had such a debate during their plenary session. Interior ministers discussed this topic as well last Friday.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson took part in most of the debates and this week she participated at the Security Dialogue on the recent terrorist attacks and the ways to combat terrorism, organised by the EP Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE).

MEPs exchanged views with Commissioner Johansson and a representative from the German Presidency of the Council on various recent and upcoming initiatives by the Commission aimed at improving the comprehensive response to terrorist threats in the EU.

Lawmakers called for further development of a structural and systematic approach to police cooperation, including through reinforced security checks at the EU's external borders, and requested more details about UK's future participation in information exchanges.

Some of them expressed concerns about the extensive collection of personal data and interception of communication and warned that this approach could have a detrimental effect on fundamental rights and freedoms.

LIBE is currently preparing a resolution on the EU Security Union Strategy, that will widely present the EP's priorities in this area for the next five years.

Saying that it is necessary to step up the common fight against terrorism, Commissioner Johansson specified that this fight is not directed against any specific religion or political belief, it is directed against violent extremism in all its forms, it is directed against terrorism.

“We are much better prepared today compared to few years ago,” she said and also underlined that there are a lot of decisions that are not properly implemented yet. “We need to step up urgently both the implementation and also to close the remaining security gaps.”

Commissioner Johansson informed MEPs that on 9 December she will put forward a new Counter-Terrorism Agenda.

She accented on the positive results of working with the Radicalisation Awareness Network and local actors who are best placed to detect signs of radicalisation.

According to her, Member States must urgently transpose the Firearms Directive and make the fight against firearms trafficking a priority. Still this year, the Commission will propose legislation to strengthen the work on protection and resilience of critical infrastructures.

We must prevent terrorists' use of the internet for recruiting people and spreading the message of hate, the Commissioner also urged, giving as an example that in one action day in July this year, Europol's Internet Referral Unit helped to assess 2,000 links to terrorist content. This included manuals, tutorials on how to carry out terrorist attacks, instructions how to stay anonymous and avoid detection while planning an attack.

She expressed hope that the trilogue on the Regulation to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online can be concluded before Christmas. Member States need to be able to order the removal of terrorist content from any hosting service provider - irrespective of its place of establishment, with EU-wide effects, in one hour, she urged.

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