The recent terror attacks in Brussels shocked Europe and the world. In the aftermath, there has been considerable debate over the link between terrorism and migration. This is not surprising, given the refugee crisis, and that the two problems are connected with the conflict in Syria and the threat posed by ISIS. There is a need for a better understanding of the European Union strategy to fight terrorism, and the separate policy to manage migration.
The tragic events in Brussels are part of a despicable series of attacks around the world. The EU is bringing added value to EU member states in ensuring that Europeans can live in an area of freedom, security and justice, without internal frontiers, and in full compliance with the Union's values, including the rule of law and fundamental rights.
The EU has enacted important measures to fight terrorism, particularly in three respects:
Firstly, better information exchange: in January we established the EU Counter Terrorism Centre in Europol to enhance cooperation between relevant national authorities. In April, the EU Passenger Name Records Directive will be finalised to track movement of terrorists at EU level and ensure better cooperation between national systems.
Secondly, the EU Directive on terrorism to provide an EU-wide criminal justice response is being updated. This includes the criminalisation of passive training and travel with terrorist purpose, and effective investigation and prosecution of foreign fighters.
Thirdly, we have further enhanced our countering violent extremism policy through the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network and the Strategic Communications Network, especially by improving early detection signs of radicalisation at all local levels.
When looking at migration, we should realise that this is the most severe refugee crisis since World War 2 with more than 60 million refugees or internally displaced people across the globe. This is a very different challenge compared to the terrorist threat.
To face the immediate crisis and to set out the longer term steps to manage migration in all its aspects, the EU is working principally in three policy areas: [fold}
Firstly, managing the inflow of migrants and refugees. The EU has tripled its presence at sea, rescuing more than 250,0000 last year. Migrant smugglers are targeted through the military operation EUNAVFORMED and are now able to board, seize and divert, in international waters, suspected vessels. ‘Hotspots’ have been established to screen, identify and fingerprint people arriving irregularly at the EU’s external borders. The legislation and the structures to allow the emergency relocation, within the EU, of up to 160,000 people in need of international protection are in place. Overall, we have mobilised €10 billion to address the crisis.
Secondly, protecting the Schengen area and ensuring strong borders. The EU has strengthened collective support to Member States with external borders, stepped up returns of irregular migrants, established mandatory systematic checks at external borders and is working to establish the European Border and Coast Guard. Bringing Schengen back to normal functioning is our objective.
Finally, the EU is addressing the root causes that generate flows of refugees, to create a stable environment to which they can return. The EU, with its Member States, is the first aid donor in Syria. The EU has provided key political and logistical support to the UN efforts in Libya.The most recent EU-Turkey joint action plan is a major step in supporting Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey. The EU is also addressing the root courses for migration also in Africa and Asia.
The attacks in Europe are part of a global terrorist threat that knows no boundary, no religion, creed or human decency. They are also attacks on our open and democratic European society. The global migration crisis has its own causes and dynamics, and we are addressing this crisis with comprehensive policies. We must take care to avoid jumping to simplistic conclusions about how terrorists are motivated and enabled or to criminalise migrants or refugees. Our resolve is stronger than before to preserve peace, justice and security for our citizens and to stand up for our values through more, not less, Europe.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user CAFOD