Global Europe Brief: EU ponders how to fight terrorism

The Global Europe Brief is EURACTIV's weekly update on the EU from the global perspective.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU in the global perspective from our foreign affairs news team: Georgi Gotev and Alexandra Brzozowski.

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Knife attacks in front of the former premises of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty, the recent knife attacks in Nice and the French embassy in Jeddah, as well as the more recent gun rampage in central Vienna keep the terrorist threat hanging over Europe – and have once again brought it back on the EU agenda.

Several key EU leaders, including France, Germany and Austria, promised at a mini-summit to renew efforts to fight Islamist terrorism, calling for a reform of the Schengen area and measures against foreign fighters.

France and Germany pushed to tighten EU borders and head off what Macron called the “threat of terrorism” after suspected Islamist militants killed eight people in Paris, Nice and Vienna within a month.

“Every security gap at our external borders or within a member state poses a risk for all member states. The completion of both the intelligence system and the legal instruments are essential,” Macron said, speaking alongside Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“We will discuss this at the EU summit in December,” Macron added.

EU interior ministers, meanwhile, are set to adopt a joint statement on terrorism as you read this. About a week ago, EU ambassadors received the draft of a joint statement on terrorism that mentioned the word “Islam”. However, the heavily edited draft text is unlikely to give it a mention, according to EU sources, while the document, leaked to several media, also drew a direct link between migration and terrorism.

Alexander Ritzmann, terrorism and security researcher at the German Society for Foreign Policy, told EURACTIV that Europe needs to be smart and avoid being trapped in terrorism’s ultimate goal: forcing Europe to marginalise its Muslim communities.

But Europe’s Muslim communities are already in the spotlight, as nativist right-wing politicians trumpet the need to preserve the continent’s ‘Christian roots’.

→ READ OUR NETWORK STORY: Terrorism and Muslim communities: Europe’s ‘right’ battle


CRISIS MANAGEMENT. In a non-paper seen by EURACTIV, the Netherlands, together with Sweden and Romania, is calling for “enhanced coordination and communication” between member states in times of crisis. The push comes as the EU has struggled to respond to the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read details here.

TIT-FOR-TAT SANCTIONS. Russia said it will soon introduce retaliatory sanctions on German and French officials over the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, after the EU had slapped sanctions on several Russian officials in October.

At the same time, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said Moscow considers to pull out from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), following the organization’s statements on the Novichok poisonings of Navalny and Russian double agent Sergey Skripal in Salisbury.

SYRIA SNUB. EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell has said Europe will not attend a Russian-organised conference on returning refugees to Syria due to ongoing violence in the war-torn country. “The EU and its member states will not attend this conference,” because “the priority at present is real action to create conditions for safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their areas of origin,” Borrell said.

AEGEAN SEA. Despite growing pressure from both Washington and Brussels for a dialogue between Greece and Turkey, the situation doesn’t seem to improve. Turkey has decided to send again research vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Eastern Mediterranean until 23 November.

VACCINE HUNT. European and world leaders said insisted that when COVID-19 vaccines are launched they should be made available to everyone, under an international project which still needs $28 billion of funding. The European Commission, meanwhile, has unveiled the first building blocks of a broader health package aimed at increasing the range of preparedness tools to respond to future cross-border health threats.


TURKEY’s PESCO FRET. As EURACTIV first reported in late October, EU27 agreed on conditions to allow countries outside the bloc to participate in joint defence projects. Although the EU has recently agreed on a set of conditions for third countries to join its defence programmes, Turkey is likely to remain outside the framework and is not happy.

TERRORISM MEGA-TRIAL. In December, the new ‘Justitia’ court will open on the site of the old NATO headquarters for one of the biggest Belgian trials in history. The trial surrounding the terrorist attacks of 22 March 2016 at Brussels Airport and the Brussels metro has caused problems for the judiciary as it will be an unprecedentedly large process, with around 900 parties involved.

YOUTH SUMMIT. A group of 14 emerging leaders from across the NATO member states has been nominated as NATO 2030 Young Leaders at the NATO 2030 Youth Summit. They are set to provide NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg with input for NATO’s 2030 reflection process.

EUROFIGHTER PROBE. A Viennese court decided to prematurely end the criminal investigation into alleged fraud by Airbus SEAIR.PA and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH in connection with the government’s $2 billion fighter jet purchase in 2003, EURACTIV’s Philipp Grüll reports.

SPIES IN PRAGUE. Chinese and Russian intelligence are among most active in Czech Republic, Aneta Zachova reports. “Russia aims for the destabilisation and breakup of its enemies, whereas China aims to create a Sinocentric global community, where all the other nations approve the legitimacy of Chinese interests and respect,” the Czech Security Information Service said in its annual report.

LANDMINE-FREE. 25 years after the end of the war, Sarajevo is now free of landmines.  More than six million square meters of suspicious area is now safe for all residents and visitors of Sarajevo and the surrounding mountains, according to the Mine Detection Dog Training Center in BiH. But the casualties after the war were high.


COMMON MARKET. Leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia adopted a plan for a regional common economic market during an online summit held in Sofia, as part of the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans.  


PEACE DEAL? Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to the war-ravaged enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early hours of Tuesday as part of a Russia-brokered ceasefire deal. Reactions in Yerevan suggest that the deal effectively seals a defeat for Armenia and territorial gains for Azerbaijan. The move sparked celebrations in Azerbaijan but fury in Armenia, where protesters took to the streets to denounce their leaders for losses of territory.

PROTEST CRACKDOWN. Fresh protests took place in Tbilisi as thousands of people hit the streets after police cracked down on demonstrations against Georgia’s recent general elections.


BIDEN-MANIA. “So many things happened since we went to the polls, it already feels like a lifetime”, a US official told EURACTIV, just as the results came in late on Saturday evening when Democrat Joe Biden captured the US presidency.

EU leaders coordinated their congratulations, visibly relieved over the election results. Will there be an EU-Biden-summit soon?

EU Council President Charles Michel is set to invite US President-elect Joe Biden to participate in a video summit with EU leaders, potentially even before the 20 January inauguration, a senior EU official told reporters on Tuesday. Michel will then follow up with another invitation to attend a formal summit in Brussels, the official added.

But as the US faces weeks of turmoil and a looming legal challenge by Donald Trump’s team to the results, in Europe, some EU leaders have also been reluctant to congratulate Biden and one official even lost his job over dreams of a US civil war.

→Read also: EU ‘troublemakers’ back Trump over Biden in US election

PENTAGONE. While everyone was busy watching the election fallout, incumbent President Donald Trump decided to suddenly replace Pentagon officials with loyalists, starting by firing Mark Esper as his defence secretary.



Europe’s everyday business has gone back into lockdown reality, until further notice. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as we face a busy finish of this troubled 2020.

  • European Parliament’s SEDE Committee
    | Monday, 16 November 2020 | virtual
  • US Secretary of State Pompeo travels to Europe and Middle East
    | whole week |
  • Deadline for Bulgaria, North Macedonia to resolve historical disputes
    | Tuesday, 17 November 2020 | Sofia, Bulgaria
  • General Affairs Council on EU budget, enlargement
    | Tuesday, 17 November 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU summit on COVID-19 response
    | Thursday, 19 November 2020 | virtual
  • European Parliament’s AFET Committee
    | Thursday, 19 November 2020 | virtual
  • Foreign Affairs Council (+Defence)
    | Thu-Fri, 19-20 November 2020 | Brussels, Belgium

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