The European Commission has approved two proposals aimed at boosting the European response to the threat of international terrorism. The proposals include a single definition of terrorism, the crimes that would fall under that definition, what constitutes a terrorist group and a European-wide arrest warrant to replace extradition procedures.
Only six Member States (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and the UK) currently have specific legislation against terrorism. Even in these six countries, the definition of terrorism varies considerably in wording and scope.
The first Commission proposal gives a single definition of terrorism as acts “committed intentionally by individuals or groups against one or more countries or their institutions or population in order to threaten them and seriously undermine or even destroy their political, economic or social structures.”
It goes on to define which crimes fall under the above definition and also what constitutes a terrorist group.
The second Commission proposal relates to increasing judicial cooperation between EU Member States across the board in criminal matters, not just for terrorism. The basis for this is the application of the principle of mutual recognition of decisions on criminal matters that was agreed at the Tampere Summit in 1999.
The key part of this proposal relates to the introduction of a European arrest warrant. This would replace traditional extradition procedures by making it compulsory for a Member State to hand over any person charged with a crime that carries a minimum sentence of four months to the authorities of the Member State making the request.