Parliament's terrorism committee is proposing a range of new measures to tackle the threat, from addressing radicalisation, to tracking terrorist financing and helping victims.
The special committee on terrorism was set up in July 2017 and started its work in September 2017 to evaluate hhow to better fight terrorism. Its findings and recommendations were adopted by MEPs during the December plenary in Strasbourg on 12 December.
Cooperation and information sharing
Given its international character, fightingt terrorism requires a strong coordinated response and rapid information sharing by EU countries.
“There are still gaps in the exchange of information between member states, technical gaps in the interoperability," said German EPP member Monika Hohlmeier, one of the report authors. "If we want to boost the information exchange, Europol and Eurojust must be strengthened and used as information hubs."
Belgian ECR member Helga Stevens, one of the other report authors, highlighted the issue of decryption “Forced decryption is very hard for smaller member states because it requires a lot of technical and human resources. I propose to give Europol authority to specialise in decryption, so they can assist member states. That would give prosecutors and police access to messages on WhatsApp and messenger for example. Right now it is quite difficult, social media companies refuse to give access to the courts.".
Better protecting the EU's external borders
Some recent terrorist attacks have demonstrated that in a limited number of cases, terrorists abused shortcomings in the border management policies of the EU and of several member states, which were not ready for a mass influx. The report urges EU countries to invest in up to date ICT equipment to allow proper checks against databases, stresses the need to use biometric data and highlights the importance of ensuring the inter-operability of databases.
The main drivers of radicalisation include radical content on social media, books and audio-visual media, as well as contact with radicalised people, hate preachers and prisons . The report calls for legislation forcing companies to remove terrorist content online and report regularly on this type of content.
“We have to guarantee the exchange of best practices, how to solve integration,” said Hohlmeier.
Stevens stressed the need for a EU-wide list of hate preachers, because now they can operate undetected, particularly if they move from one EU country to another.
In order to tackle the financing of terrorism, the report also calls for better traceability of art and antiques, especially from conflict zones, as well as better monitoring of financial flows. This should include identifying users of electronic wallets, prepaid cards, crowdfunding platforms and mobile payment systems. Another requirement is to make places of worship and other institutions more transparent about their funding and to ban funding from non-EU countries that oppose democracy, rule of law and human rights.
"All religious institutions should be transparent and show where the funding is coming from, so authorities can check if necessary," said Stevens.
The report also urges EU countries to better protect critical infrastructure, such as electricity or gas grids, and develop effective response strategies. It also calls for stricter rules against illicit firearms trafficking and preventing the purchase of chemicals to manufacture explosives. In 2015 and 2016 explosives were used in 40% of attacks while the most commonly used one is TATP, which can be manufactured easily at home.
The report calls on the European Commission to put forward legislation clarifying the status of terrorism vicitms, their rights and levels of compensation.