Documents considered by the Committee on 15 September 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

27   EU Counter-Terrorism Policy



COM(10) 386

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Commission Communication on EU Counter-Terrorism Policy: main achievements and future challenges

Commission Staff Working Paper — Taking stock of EU counter-terrorism measures

Legal base
Document originated20 July 2010
Deposited in Parliament30 July 2010
DepartmentHome Office
Basis of considerationEM of 16 August 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


27.1  In December 2005, the European Council endorsed the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy which included the strategic commitment to combat terrorism globally while respecting human rights, and to make Europe safer, allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and justice. The EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy is based on four strands — Prevent, Protect, Pursue and Respond — which are intended to constitute a comprehensive and proportionate response to the international terrorist threat.[118] The Strategy was followed by an Action Plan specifying a range of measures to be taken under each of the four strands.

27.2  The Stockholm Programme, which establishes the EU's priorities in the area of freedom, security and justice for the period 2010-14, includes a commitment to develop an EU Internal Security Strategy to improve security within the EU and to tackle organised crime and terrorism.[119]

The Commission Communication

27.3  The Communication is the Commission's response to a request from the European Parliament for a political assessment of the core elements of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy but it will also inform the Commission's development of the broader Internal Security Strategy envisaged in the Stockholm Programme. The Communication states that "the threat from terrorism remains significant and is constantly evolving" and that "the international community's efforts to combat this threat need to evolve as well". The Commission recognises that "Member States are the main actors in this sensitive policy area".[120] The purpose of the Communication is therefore to highlight the main policy and legislative developments at EU level which can contribute to combating terrorism and to identify future challenges. A detailed description of existing EU measures is provided in an accompanying Commission Staff Working Paper.

27.4  The Commission's analysis focuses on the main challenges and threats under each of the four strands of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as follows:

  • Prevent — preventing radicalisation and recruitment and tackling use of the internet to support terrorist activity;
  • Protect — protecting people and infrastructure through EU-wide threat assessments, strengthening transport security, security in the supply chain and border controls, protecting critical infrastructure and investing in security-related research;
  • Pursue — gathering and analysis of information, impeding the movement and activities of terrorists, strengthening police and judicial co-operation and combating terrorist financing; and
  • Respond — developing a civilian response capacity to respond to terrorist attacks, establishing early warning and crisis management systems, and providing assistance to the victims of terrorism.

27.5  The Communication also identifies the following cross-cutting issues which have an important bearing on implementation of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy:

  • Respect for fundamental rights — ensuring that EU measures to counter terrorism fully respect fundamental rights and the rule of law, with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights providing the "compass" for all EU policies;
  • International co-operation and partnerships with third countries — continuing to develop channels of co-operation with external partners, especially the United States, and working through international organisations such as the United Nations, Council of Europe, OSCE and G8; and
  • Funding — securing sources of funding to support policies to counter terrorism and organised crime.

27.6  The Commission reviews a wide range of EU legislative instruments and policies which it says have contributed significantly to combating terrorism and concludes that the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy has enabled the EU "to develop more systematic and less incident-driven policy-making".[121] The Commission also identifies a number of future challenges and areas of work under each of the four strands, as follows:

  • Prevent — publishing a Communication in 2011 assessing Member States' experiences of countering radicalisation and recruitment which will provide a basis for reviewing and updating the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Action Plan; identifying the most effective ways to tackle internet use for terrorist purposes and enhancing public-private partnerships to deal with illegal internet content;
  • Protect — reviewing the Directive on European Critical Infrastructures with a view to extending its scope beyond the energy and transport sectors; [122] reviewing the Action Plan on the Security of Explosives; improving transport security, including developing an EU-wide system for testing and using new detection technologies; establishing links between technology providers and users and the research community to provide effective research on security issues;
  • Pursue — examining existing EU instruments providing for the exchange of information to ensure that they meet a real need and respect the right to privacy and protection of personal data; determining how to establish an EU policy on passenger name records (PNR) as a means of combating terrorism; examining the need for EU legislation on investigative techniques for the prevention of terrorist crimes (although this may form part of proposed legislation on the European Investigation Order which would establish broader rules for obtaining evidence in criminal matters); and agreeing a methodology for analysing threats at EU level; and
  • Respond — publishing a Communication on strengthening consular protection during crises; further developing the EU's rapid response capacity in the context of civilian crisis and disaster management; implementing the EU's CBRN Action Plan to prevent, detect and respond to incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials; legislative action on the protection of victims; and agreeing arrangements to implement the solidarity clause (Article 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) which provides for assistance to Member States in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

27.7  On cross-cutting issues, the Commission states that ensuring respect for fundamental rights, strengthening co-operation with external partners and securing adequate funding to support counter-terrorism policies under the next multi-annual financial framework will remain priorities for the EU. The Commission intends to produce a further evaluation of the EU's counter-terrorism policies and priorities in time for the mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme.

The Government's view

27.8  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 16 August 2010, the Minister for Security at the Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones) welcomes the Communication and says:

"We support the Commission's assertion that the EU and its Member States must remain alive to, and be able to respond effectively to, the evolving and diversifying terrorist threat.

"We also believe that EU activity usefully improves the capability and capacity of EU Member States by setting a baseline standard for all Member States. However, as the Communication acknowledges, Member States are the main actors in this sensitive policy area, and much of CT policy will continue to fall under Member State competence as a matter of national security. CT policy also needs to continue to reflect the range of different historical, ethnic and security circumstances involved within each Member State".[123]

27.9  The Minister continues with an analysis of the policy implications of many of the legislative instruments and policies considered in the Communication and accompanying Commission Staff Working Paper. On the Prevent strand of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy, she comments that the Commission's proposal to draw on Member States' experiences of countering radicalisation and recruitment in preparing a further Communication in 2011 coincides with the Government's commitment to review its own Prevent strategy. She also says that the Government would welcome training in other Member States , on a voluntary basis, on tackling internet use and illegal internet content to support terrorist activity.

27.10  On the Protect strand, the Minister notes the UK's active involvement in: voluntary, collaborative work across all EU Member States to strengthen cyber security and the resilience of information systems; helping to develop a common testing methodology for security scanner systems to improve transport security; promoting security research on, for example, improved customs controls and security of the international supply chain. She says, however, that the Government will oppose any extension of the scope of the Directive on European Critical Infrastructures unless there is evidence of significant benefit and will remain alert to any attempt to increase EU powers in an area of national competence.[124]

27.11  As regards the Pursue strand, the Minister notes the Government's commitment to review all the UK's extradition arrangements (thus including implementation of the European Arrest Warrant) and confirms the Government's decision to opt into negotiations on the proposed European Investigation Order. She expresses support for changes to the EU Regulation on the Freezing of Terrorist Assets (which implements the United Nations Al Qaida and Taliban sanctions regime) to improve due process safeguards and indicates that she would welcome wider EU co-operation to prevent the misuse of new payment systems (via the internet, prepaid cards or mobile payments) and to tackle terrorist financing, including the channelling of funds through charities or non-profit organisations. The Minister urges swift publication of a Directive on the collection and analysis of PNR data for journeys within the EU.

27.12  On the Respond strand, the Minister expresses support for practical co-operation on national crisis response capabilities and continuing efforts to implement the CBRN Action Plan. She explains that Commission proposals for developing an EU rapid response capacity are likely to include a requirement for Member States to "pre-commit" disaster response assets for EU deployment, which the UK would resist. She comments further that:

"The UK would resist extending Commission competence to include command and control of Member States' assets or to include operational co-ordination within the EU unless at the request of the host nation authority or under the overall coordination of the United Nations".[125]

27.13   The Minister considers that the solidarity clause in Article 222 TFEU is an expression of Member States' political will to assist one another in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster and has "no legal significance in that it will not enable Member States to do anything which they could not otherwise do under existing legal bases". Any implementing measures proposed by the Commission should not, therefore, fetter Member States' discretion to decide how to respond to any request for assistance.[126]

27.14  On the cross-cutting issues, the Minister supports the Commission's assertion that fundamental rights and the rule of law should be at the heart of the EU's approach to countering terrorism. She welcomes efforts to develop more practical co-operation with external partners where EU resources can act as a multiplier and complement the UK's own efforts, as well as greater EU engagement in developing counter-terrorism capacity in third countries, notably Pakistan, Yemen and the Sahel. On funding, the Minister suggests merging several funding streams under the JHA budget to create an Internal Security Fund and highlights the need to ensure that funding is available for the Committee on Internal Security (COSI) to undertake new projects on practical co-operation in the field of organised crime.


27.15  We thank the Minister for her detailed assessment of EU action under the four strands of the EU's Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the possible implications of future activity at EU level for the UK. We welcome her strong endorsement of the need to ensure that EU legislation and policy in this sensitive area fully respects fundamental rights and the rule of law.

27.16  We note the Government's preference for voluntary arrangements and collaboration between Member States wherever practicable, while also requiring evidence of significant benefit in those areas where EU legislation is proposed. We trust that this approach will also apply when considering Commission proposals for a Directive on Passenger Name Records applicable to journeys within the EU.

27.17  The Communication identifies future challenges and priority areas for EU activity, some of which are likely to result in legislation and will require careful scrutiny to ensure an appropriate balance between security needs and the protection of fundamental rights. As the Communication has no immediate legal, policy or financial implications for the UK, we are content to clear it from scrutiny while drawing it to the attention of the House.

118   (27046) 14469/1/05; see HC 34-xvi (2005-06),chapter 13 (25 January 2006) and document 14469/4/05 Rev 4. Back

119   (30701) 11060/09; see HC 19-xxiii (2008-09), chapter 1 (8 July 2009). Back

120   See paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Introduction to the Communication.  Back

121   See page 13 of the Commission's Communication.  Back

122   Directive 2008/114/EC, OJ No. L 345, 23.12.08, p 75. Back

123   Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, paras 14 and 15.  Back

124   Directive 2008/114/EC, OJ No. L 345, 23.12.08, p.75. Back

125   Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, para 47. Back

126   Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, para 48. Back

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