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Procedure : 2010/2311(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0286/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0286/2011

Debates :

PV 12/09/2011 - 23
CRE 12/09/2011 - 23

Votes :

PV 13/09/2011 - 5.23
CRE 13/09/2011 - 5.23
Explanations of votes
PV 14/12/2011 - 9.2
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0577

Debates
Monday, 12 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

23. EU counter-terrorism policy: main achievements and future challenges (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report (A7-0286/2011) by Ms Sophia in’t Veld on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the EU Counter-Terrorism Policy: main achievements and future challenges (2011/2311(INI)).

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. − Mr President, I had actually prepared a rather different intervention for today, but things seem to be developing very rapidly.

First of all, I think it is regrettable that we are not having a full debate. This is a very important topic. I think this is underlined by the controversy about the report, and therefore I think it would have merited the presence of the responsible Commissioner, the Council and many colleagues, including the shadows.

I am rather unpleasantly surprised by the extreme reluctance – both within the European Parliament and the European Commission – to evaluate the EU counter-terrorism policies. As a Democrat, I think evaluation is an essential part of democracy. It is about transparency, accountability to our citizens and making our policies better and more efficient. I think that a democracy that is unable and unwilling to take a critical look at its own policies is not worth the term ‘democracy’. If we are convinced that we have got it right in our policies, I think we can be confident that they will stand the test.

We do not only have a duty to our own citizens, we also have to be a moral compass in the world. Frankly, colleagues, I feel that if we are unable to carry out a thorough evaluation of the measures we have taken over the last ten years, we lose all credibility and moral authority, and that is particularly important at the time of the Arab Spring. How can we look the young people in North Africa in the eye and say to them – with credibility – you have to create democracy and the rule of law, respect human rights and live by the principles of accountability and transparency, if we do not live up to that and are unwilling to do it ourselves?

I have to say that there is a great deal of controversy around this report; I think this is very regrettable and disappointing. I did expect a controversial debate, but I did not expect it to be quite this acrimonious. We voted in July, but ever since the vote, several Members and Groups have changed their positions, in some cases by 180 degrees. Texts that were agreed unanimously are now being put forward for deletion by several Groups. I find that surprising.

Now let us have a look at the texts that are so incredibly shocking and radical that they have to be taken out. First there is a paragraph – paragraph 26 – that was agreed unanimously (I underline unanimously) by all the political groups, referring to Article 70 of the Treaty – very shocking, very radical – calling for an evaluation on the basis of that same Treaty. There is, for example, a paragraph saying that we should not only address the consequences of terrorism but also the causes; very radical. There is a paragraph calling for impact assessments and proportionality tests; very radical – except it is already compulsory. There is another paragraph referring to proper access to documents: that is the official position of this House!

So I have to say I am very surprised by some of the requests for separate votes. However, I do think that in this case – and I will conclude on that, Chair – it is much more important that we achieve a result. I will try until the very last moment to bring people together and see if we can arrive at some sort of agreement, because we owe it not to this House, but to our citizens and to the rest of the world.

 
  
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  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE).(ES) Mr President, I reject this report as inappropriate, mistaken, misinformed, untimely and subjective. The fight against terrorism is very necessary and it must be efficient, act as a deterrent and have a preventative effect too. Although it must be valued, its costs should never be evaluated in economic terms. How many euros does a life cost? How many euros do three thousand lives cost?

I support democratic judges and police officers and I trust in them and I believe in our democratic vitality to correct the abuses of power that could occur. I would also cite psalm 46 in solidarity: ‘Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea’. I share the reflected absence too; it is present in my heart and in my speeches as are all the victims: those of Madrid, London, Marrakech, Casablanca and Bali, all of them.

No, Mr President, this own-initiative report is a bad initiative.

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Mr President, the debate on this own-initiative report is taking place at a time when we are commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the attacks that took place on September 11 in the US, which highlights for us that the threat of terrorism is a real threat, not a product of our imagination. Furthermore it is here to stay, so the world in which we lived, in which humanity lived in the middle of the 20th century, is not going to return.

Therefore, we must be acutely aware that this is a time when providing security, a traditional competence of the Member States, is also a responsibility of the EU and of all its institutions. It is the responsibility of the specialised agencies such as Europol and Eurojust but it is also the responsibility of the European Parliament, which is certainly committed to transparency, to political scrutiny and, accordingly, to the evaluation of policies on matters of security which the Treaty of Lisbon entrusts now, from this point in time and into the future, to the EU and also to Parliament. However, the latter also has a commitment to security: it must not only watch over the right to freedom but also over the right to security, and it must issue a message of solidarity with the victims of terrorism, with the countries that fight against terrorism in Europe …

(The President interrupted the speaker)

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE).(ES) Thank you, Ms in’t Veld, for your work. We need specific assistance for victims. We have to know what we spend on fighting terrorism, what impact that work has on everyone’s freedoms and how much it costs in human, social, economic and political terms. We owe that transparency to the citizens of Europe if we want to generate trust and consensus.

In my country, terrorism has killed almost 900 people and that is an unjustifiable cost in lives, in sorrow. Some thought, moreover, that they were killing in our name and we lived under guard while they accused us of collaborating with ETA. Political prejudices prevented the Basque police from participating in Schengen and that has cost lives. They even closed down a newspaper unjustly and our Parliament has lost legitimacy because some rulings facilitated absolute majorities to those who did not have them at the ballot boxes.

Separatism and the defence of the right to self-determination are legitimate ideas. What is dangerous is ETA, which fortunately is coming to an end. It is an expression of violent extremism like others; in order to repress it they must be arrested but in addition we must strengthen democracy with debate, transparency and more respect for the people.

 
  
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  Jan Philipp Albrecht (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to express my thanks to Ms in’t Veld for presenting this report, which received the support of a broad majority in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. I am a little surprised that some groups want to revisit the issue here. I am also surprised by the reaction of Mr Díaz de Mera.

I believe it is absolutely essential that we should assess the EU’s anti-terrorism policy, mainly in order to ensure better terrorism-related policies. This means that someone like me, who is absolutely in favour of the surveillance of terrorists and the prevention of terrorist attacks, must support the effective assessment of the 10 years of effort that we have invested, both in relation to the establishment of priorities and the associated costs, and in terms of the extent of the interventions, for example relating to civil rights and the norms of the rule of law, and on the other hand, that we should evaluate the measures that we have implemented. I believe that this is important to our citizens and to this Parliament and that it would be right to do it now. In my opinion it would be highly dangerous to retreat back to camp at this stage.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). - (SK) Mr President, by way of introduction I consider it necessary to confirm the finding in paragraph 12 of the report that in the European Union the threat of terrorism is multi-faceted and that many of the dangers also stemming from separatist sentiments are initiated by separatist movements. In the future strategy for EU internal security we must therefore distinguish between international, religiously motivated terrorism and territorial, secessionist-oriented terrorism with several hotspots also within the European Union. Through better coordination between national policies in the fight against terrorism and the policies of the Union we must achieve a level whereby measures and instruments in the fight against terrorism are not unnecessarily duplicated, whilst ensuring that no potential gaps may remain in the system. Given that terrorism is a dynamically evolving phenomenon, the European policy on combating terrorism must be creative so as to eliminate all the threats.

 
  
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  Martin Ehrenhauser (NI).(DE) Mr President, the British-Austrian philosopher Karl Popper once said: ‘We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.’ I believe that the European Union and its Member States are guided by a contrary principle and are gradually transforming the liberal rule of law into a preventionist regime. For example, the Seventh Framework Programme for Research is to spend a total of EUR 1.4 billion in the field of security. Only two of the approximately 120 projects deal with data protection or legal and social issues. That is precisely why it is important to question the fundamental rights critically, as Ms in’t Veld has done, and to include data protection in the report, also embracing those aspects relating to privacy. It is also important to evaluate the last 10 years. That is why I naturally intend supporting the report and will be canvassing for further support over the next few hours.

 
  
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  Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio (PPE).(ES) Mr President, I would like to say to everyone that there is only one kind of terrorism, simply that which destroys innocent lives. Where it comes from is not an issue.

The victims of terrorism, whom I represent, given that the ETA terrorist organisation killed my brother and his wife, share a common thread, and on their behalf, I would like to say that this report, with such a long title, could have been ambitious, but it is not. It is a disappointing outcome. This report does not represent us, it does not represent hopes for justice, or the balance between freedom and security that we talk about so much here. It does not represent us, and I believe that a report on terrorism should acknowledge the victims of terrorism, but this does not. Therefore, I ask you to vote against this report.

 
  
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  Anna Hedh (S&D).(SV) Mr President, I would like to thank Ms in ’t Veld for her excellent work. I deeply regret the problems that have arisen during the process. It is disgraceful.

This issue is extremely topical, not only in view of the 10th anniversary of 11 September but also on account of the terrorist attack on the island of Utøya in Norway this summer. Despite the fact that the Member States have different experiences of terrorism and that the levels of threat are different, we must work together to prevent the terrorists exploiting the differences within the EU in terms of legislation, capacity to combat terrorism and the abolition of border controls.

The purpose of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy should be to counter the goal of terrorism, which is to try to disrupt our free, open and democratic societies. The surest way to combat terrorism is to focus on preventive measures against violent extremism and the escalation of violence. I am therefore pleased about the network that Commissioner Malmström presented the other day. I would like the Commission to carry out a proper evaluation of the goals that have been set as the Counter-Terrorism Strategy ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I welcome the debate on this report, which marks 10 years since the attacks that changed counter-terrorism policy globally. In the amendments which we tabled, we supported international cooperation on fighting terrorism, however, with respect for human rights. The new European External Action Service plays a key role in this process. Coordination with the Council’s structures and European agencies ensures a single response to the current security challenges.

With regard to the other international organisations, the relevant UN treaties serve as a legal benchmark. I should mention Article 23. Against the background of recent developments in East Africa, it is important to include Somalia in the list of states targeted by the EU’s counter-terrorism policy.

I think that it is the EU’s duty to submit a proper, clear strategy, focused on achieving results in this area.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). - (SK) Madam President, the counter-terrorism policy is coming alarmingly to the fore, bringing with it the increasing need to set clear rules for its application, especially, as the rapporteur stated, with respect for fundamental rights and data protection of European citizens.

In particular I would like to highlight the need for strengthened judicial and police cooperation within the European Union as an essential and necessary instrument to secure all the attributes of democracy. In my opinion such cooperation should, however, be supervised by the European Parliament and national parliaments, particularly in terms of transparency and access to documents, and also to the entire European counter-terrorism policy. I therefore propose that there should be a strengthening of judicial cooperation, particularly in the field of investigation and prosecution with the possibility of freezing assets, protecting witnesses and the victims of such crimes, and setting the rate of compensation for victims of terrorism and the like. I therefore appeal to all EU institutions to apply the Charter in their work and adhere to the fundamental rights and freedoms associated with such a sensitive area.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission.(FR) Mr President, I wish to thank, on behalf of my colleague Cecilia Malmström, whom I am representing here this evening, the rapporteur and the other Members of this House for their help in drafting this report. The report undoubtedly makes a valuable contribution to the debate on counter-terrorism policy.

Following on from the Commission’s summary communication of July 2010, we now have reports providing for a very ambitious programme to increase the level of knowledge of the counter-terrorism efforts being made in Europe. The Commission supports the measures aimed at improving evaluations and hence policy-making. There is no doubt that imposing heavy economic burdens or unnecessarily restricting fundamental rights and civil liberties would only benefit those whom we are trying to counter.

Only measured policies can be legitimate, credible and properly understood. They should be supervised, evaluated and applied constantly. However, a simple economic approach, based on a cost-benefit analysis, is not sufficient to appreciate the complex nature of security issues, which are a main concern of our citizens and a key factor in the welfare of our societies. Furthermore, a number of the proposed measures could prove unenforceable, since the scope of some of them has not been clearly defined. It therefore seems unrealistic, in the short term, to envisage an in-depth and detailed 10-year evaluation of counter-terrorism policy in the European Union, not least because of the multitude of actual counter-terrorism policies and measures, or policies and measures relating to it. What is more, the Commission does not have sufficient resources to accomplish such a task at present.

Besides, by taking stock of all the counter-terrorism policies conducted by the Member States, we should be able to see things more clearly. The EU’s counter-terrorism coordinators could play an important role in this regard by contributing to this inventory and carrying out coordination work thanks to this close relationship with the Member States’ administrations.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ROBERTA ANGELILLI
Vice-President

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Tuesday 13 September, at 11.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. (FR) Upon reading Ms in ’t Veld’s report, I was surprised at the naivety of some of its statements and proposals. It is clear that Ms in ’t Veld is no expert in terrorism, or even in counter-terrorism as it is carried out in the Member States. She also has a short memory! An opponent of profiling, she does, however, suggest that some forms of terrorism, which she describes as ‘religiously motivated’, are the work of poorly integrated and disadvantaged minorities. The fact is, most of the perpetrators of the terrorist acts of the last decade were fully integrated, had a university degree, a job and citizenship of an EU country. An advocate of absolute transparency, of cost-benefit analysis and of democratic debate on the policy being pursued, she prefers to ruin all the efforts of the police and intelligence services, the success of which depends precisely on discretion. Her proposals amount to nothing less than informing potential terrorists of our weaknesses and of the best possible targets to aim for. Had I needed any proof that counter-terrorism is one area that must be protected as much as possible from the harmful actions of the EU and its institutions, Ms in ’t Veld’s report would have certainly provided it.

 
  
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  Ágnes Hankiss (PPE), in writing. During the year-long preparations the EPP Group presented a unanimously firm position by expressing its discontent over the tone and subject matter of the report. I had a negative opinion about the report. Reservations were twofold: a matter of both principle and the practical approach. I was critical of the tone determined by prejudices, an assumption that counter-terrorism keeps violating human rights, operates with excessive budgets and exaggerates threats. These propagandistic assumptions were based on hypotheses for which no evidence was provided by the rapporteur. The goals laid down in the report are hardly feasible in practice but the rapporteur showed no intention of reflecting on this. As data is classified for security reasons, to what extent and on which benchmarks should the proportionality between the cost of a preventive counter-terrorism operation and the threat level be assessed? As supporters of transparency and accountability, the EPP Group stands for overseeing counter-terrorism policies; however, within the established competence of designated authorities, not bodies made up of ambitious civilians or self-declared politicians. Undermining the morale of counter-terrorism, especially nowadays, is proof of irresponsible behaviour, thus the EPP is not in a position to support a report reflecting any political campaign jeopardising security.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE), in writing.(RO) Ten years on from the attacks carried out on 11 September 2001, terrorist threats continue to pose serious problems for the European Union and its citizens, with 249 attacks recorded in 2010 on European soil alone. The European Commission must consider increasing the funding for counter-terrorism assistance measures in the future Instrument for Stability.

The statements made this year in the European Parliament by the Director of Europol indicate that terrorist groups are becoming increasingly diverse and versatile in the way they operate, with proof available showing an increase in international cooperation between groups. This is precisely the reason why existing counter-terrorism-related strategic partnerships need to be expanded and strengthened, and other new ones established with countries outside Europe.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. – (DE) The Russians and Americans sowed the seeds for terrorists like Bin Laden during the Cold War. Bin Laden may now be history, however his legacy remains in a radicalisation of the way in which terrorism is combated. The principles of the rule of law were the first to fall victim to the ‘war on terrorism’. Even within the EU, human rights violations take place and are hushed up in the name of ‘combating terrorism’. The US has often been more concerned with enhancing its leadership role than with cutting off terrorism at its roots. These are national, ethnic and religious conflicts. Now people find themselves under the investigators’ spotlight before they have committed a crime, so that, for example, innocent airline passengers are required to reveal all their personal data. Remember that we have no evidence for the success of these investigations involving a kind of data striptease. Now, following the killings in Norway, there is a suggestion that we should establish our own network for the ‘early detection of possible perpetrators of violent crime’. This is grotesque. Are we to have a situation in which anyone who has ever entertained ‘radical thoughts’, or anyone who fails the political correctness test, is to be monitored as a potential terrorist? Such a development is to be rejected in the strongest terms. In addition, clear separation is essential between members of the police and secret service when it comes to appointments to security bodies. Finally, a thorough review is also required of the role of EU Member States in CIA operations.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir (ALDE), in writing. (ET) This report offers a good analysis of the present policy and shortcomings of the EU’s anti-terrorism struggle. I concur that the struggle against terrorism needs a united approach, regardless of the fact that the situation may seem very different from one Member State to another. It is enough for one EU Member State to underestimate the terror threat, and the consequences may be catastrophic. The struggle against terrorism does not, of course, mean that we deal only with consequences; we must invest more in policies countering racism and discrimination. Society must certainly be heedful that the fundamental rights of the members of our civil society not be violated under the banner of the struggle against terrorism. I also perceive a danger in the behaviour of several superpowers, which too lightly label ‘unpleasant persons’ terrorists because they dare to stand up for the human rights of small nations and do not approve of all of the decisions made by the central authorities. Naturally the concept of terrorism and the terrorist should be precisely defined at the European level, to ensure that individual human rights activists who are politically at odds with the authorities are not groundlessly labelled as terrorists or accused of terrorism, as was unfortunately customary in the former Soviet Union.

 
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