Terrorism is still the “main threat to society” and therefore new tools are needed in the field of counter-terrorism, according to a Commission communication presented by Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini on November 6.
In addition to the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy, the current communication – entitled “Stepping up the fight against terrorism” – focuses on the following three integral parts:
- An amendment to the Framework Decision on Terrorism;
- An EU Action Plan on the security of explosives and;
- A European Passenger Name Record (PNR), requiring all 27 EU member states to have an air passenger information storage system which their security services would be able to access (EURACTIV 07/11/07).
The amendment shall add public provocation to commit terrorist offences as well as the recruitment and training for terrorism to the list of criminal offences and also especially deal with the use of the internet for terrorist propaganda purposes (EURACTIV 05/11/07).
These steps were needed to further improve the prevention of terrorist attacks, Frattini said. “We cannot be complacent, we have to continue striking the right balance between being aware of the threat and taking adequate and proportionate measures, both at European and national level, to prevent it.”
Addressing the concerns likely to emerge from human rights activists, he added: “Our goal remains preserving the right balance between the fundamental right to security of citizens, the right to life and the other fundamental rights of individuals, including privacy and procedural rights.”
The EU’s new counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, also underlined this aspect when he addressed the Civil Liberties Committee in the European Parliament on November 5, saying that “compensatory measures” are needed to ensure that the fight against terrorism does not “shrink” individual liberty.
The proposed Action Plan on Explosives contains 47 recommendations for specific action, including the setting up of an early warning system on explosives and the creation of the European bomb data system, to be administered by Europol and accessible for all member states. In this context, Frattini and de Kerchove stressed the need for closer cooperation between Europol and the member states.
According to Frattini, this new anti-terrorism package “sends a strong message to terrorists and people planning terrorist attacks” and at the same time “a strong protective message to our citizens”. The whole package is expected to be approved by the Council in December.
The civil liberties group Statewatch critised the package, blaming the Commission for “trying to impose sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression” instead of focusing on practical steps to improve cooperation between the member states. In particular, it is worried that the wording of the definition regarding the three new categories of criminal offence may “result in the criminalisation of the expression of political views”.
The potential new offence of “public provocation” could turn out to be “counter-productive” in “radicalising others who share those beliefs rather than decreasing the number of violent terrorists in the EU”, it said.