The European Commission on Wednesday proposed stepping up the European Union’s (EU) fight against terrorism and violent extremism by, among others, strengthening the role of security forces.
It proposed reinforcing the mandate of Europol, the EU Agency for law enforcement cooperation, to allow it to issue warnings about “foreign fighters” to member states, as part of its new strategy to combat radical groups.
“The recent spate of attacks on European soil have served as a sharp reminder that terrorism remains real and present danger and as this threat evolves, so too must our cooperation to counter it,” the commission said in a statement announcing the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the EU.
Building on the work done in recent years, the agenda seeks to support member states in better anticipating, preventing, protecting and responding to the terrorist threat.
“With today’s Counter-Terrorism Agenda, we are boosting experts’ ability to anticipate new threats, we are helping local communities to prevent radicalization, we are giving cities the means to protect open public spaces through good design and we are ensuring that we can respond quickly and more efficiently to attacks and attempted attacks,” Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said.
She explained at a press conference how in July Europol had a day of action against terrorist content online. Nearly 2,000 links to terrorist content on 180 platforms and websites were assessed for removal.
The agenda aims at identifying vulnerabilities and building capacity to anticipate threats, preventing attacks by addressing radicalization, promoting inclusion and providing opportunities through education. It also focuses on strengthening preventive action in prisons, paying specific attention to the rehabilitation and reintegration of radical inmates, including after their release.
The commission said the EU will step up efforts to ensure physical protection of public spaces including places of worship through security by design.
When asked whether the commission could rule out the introduction of a backdoor way out of encryption of data, Johansson said a balance must be found between the protection of privacy and the lawful access to dangerous substances.
The new agenda was unveiled in the wake of a spate of deadly terror attacks in European cities including Nice and Vienna in less than three months.
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