Parliament's response to terrorist threat: Europol, passenger records, need for common action
In the wake of the terrorists attacks in Paris on 13 November, the fight against terrorism remains at the top of the European Parliament's agenda. On Monday 30 November and Tuesday 1 December, the civil liberties committee discussed how the EU's strategy could be improved.
Boosting Europol's counter-terrorism powers
Europol, the European Police office, is probably the EU's best common weapon when it comes to dealing with terrorism. To improve the agency's capacity to fight terrorism, Parliament negotiators reached an informal deal to enhance Europol's mandate with the nationals governments represented in the Council on 26 November. The civil liberties committee endorsed the deal on Monday 30 November.
"The new Europol rules are the best answer that we can give to the terrorist threat," said Spanish EPP member Agustín Díaz de Mera, who negotiated with the Council on behalf of the Parliament. With these new powers, the agency would be able to set up specialised units more easily and to exchange information with private entities in some cases. The draft regulation now needs to be approved by the Parliament as well as by the governments represented in the Council of Ministers.
Passenger name records
Sharing information between EU countries and facilitating the identification of suspects and people likely to join Isis in Syria are key tools for law enforcement. The European Passenger Name Record proposal lays the ground for a more systematic collection, use and retention of the data relating to international airline passengers.
On Tuesday 1 December, UK ECR member Timothy Kirkhope, who is negotiating on behalf of Parliament, reported back to the civil liberties committee on the talks that started in September between Parliament, the Council and the European Commission. Kirkhope said there are good chances of reaching an agreement by the end of the year. However, some points of contention remain, including for example on how long the data should be kept.
Developing a common response
The recent attacks in Paris have shown that extremists can exploit any weaknesses in the cooperation between EU countries. "We have to show citizens that we are able to provide security," European counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told the civil liberties committee on 1 December. He was there to discuss the EU counter-terrorism strategy adopted by governments in 2005. He said the necessary ingredients of any attempt to truly tackle terrorism were determination, pragmatism and action on the ground.