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Counter-terrorism strategy

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Counter-terrorism strategy

Terrorism poses a serious threat to all States and to all peoples. In response to this, the European Union (EU) has established a counter-terrorism strategy, based on prevention, protection, pursuit and response.


Council of the European Union, 30 November 2005: The European Union Counter-Terrorism Strategy.


In response to the current terrorist threat, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have introduced a global strategy to contribute to global security. The strategy adopted at EU level promotes democracy, dialogue and good governance to tackle the root causes of radicalisation.

To combat terrorism effectively, the EU proposes to organise its actions around four objectives: prevention, protection, pursuit and response.


The "Prevention" pillar aims to combat radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists by identifying the methods, propaganda and the instruments used by terrorists. Although these challenges lie with the Member States, the EU helps to coordinate the national policies, determine good practice and share information.

The priorities identified concerning prevention are to:

  • develop common approaches to spot and tackle problem behaviour;
  • hold in check incitement and recruitment in key environments (prisons, places of worship, etc.);
  • develop inter-cultural dialogue;
  • explain European policies better;
  • promote good governance, democracy, education and economic prosperity through assistance programmes;
  • continue research in this area and share analysis and experiences.


The "Protection" pillar aims to reduce the vulnerability of targets to attack and to limit the resulting impact of attack. It proposes to establish collective action for border security, transport and other cross-border infrastructures.

Member States have the Schengen Information System II (SIS II) and the Visa Information System (VIS), as well as the FRONTEX agency to maximise the effectiveness of border controls. In parallel to these instruments, they are required to exchange their passenger data and to use biometric information in identity documents.

With a view to increasing transport security, Member States must together examine the weak spots of transport systems and enhance the security of roads, trains, airports and seaports.

The EU wishes to assess the threat and its vulnerability. It is a matter of devising a work programme, methods of protection against attacks and a European programme for critical infrastructure protection. Member States must also continue their efforts towards cooperation in the fields of non-proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials (CBRN).


The aim of the third pillar is to pursue terrorists across borders, while respecting human rights and international law. The EU wishes first and foremost to cut off access to attack materials (arms, explosives, etc.), disrupt terrorist networks and recruitment agents and tackle the misuse of non-profit associations.

The second aim of pursuing terrorists is to put an end to sources of terrorist financing by carrying out inquiries, freezing assets and impeding money transfers (which also concerns the “protection” aspect). The EU has also implemented legislation on money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The third aim is to put an end to the planning of terrorist activities by impeding the communication and dissemination of terrorists' technical knowledge, especially via the Internet.

Member States make the necessary instruments available to obtain and analyse information. They prepare joint analyses and exchange information through Europol and Eurojust. Each Member State reports on how it has strengthened its capabilities and on its national mechanisms.

The instruments used to respond to these objectives are:

  • the analyses carried out by the Joint Situation Centre (SITCEN) and Europol;
  • the European arrest warrant and the European Evidence Warrant;
  • the Joint Investigation Teams;
  • the principle of availability of law enforcement information;
  • VIS and SIS II (for better information access);
  • the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which the Commission is an active member and which provides recommendations, a large number of which are implemented by European legislation.


The risk of terrorist attacks cannot be reduced to zero. It is for Member States to be able to deal with them when they occur. The response systems to terrorist attacks will often be similar to those in place to manage natural, technological or man-made disasters. To make provision, full use should be made of the existing structures and European civil protection mechanisms. An EU database lists the resources and assets which Member States could mobilise in the case of a terrorist attack.

In the event of an attack, it is vital to:

  • exchange operational and policy information rapidly and ensure media coordination (in the case of a cross-border incident);
  • ensure solidarity, assistance and compensation of the victims of terrorism and their families at national and European levels;
  • provide assistance to EU citizens in third countries;
  • protect and assist civilian and military assets on EU crisis management operations.

This strategy is complemented by a detailed action plan listing all the relevant measures to be taken under the four pillars of this strategy.


Council of the European Union Report of 17 January 2011 on the EU Action Plan on combating terrorism.

Council of the European Union, 17 July 2008 – Revised Strategy on Terrorist Financing.

Council Decision 2007/124/EC of 12 February 2007 establishing for the period 2007 to 2013, as part of the General Programme "Security and Safeguarding Liberties", the Specific Programme "Prevention, Preparedness and Consequence Management of Terrorism and other Security related risks" [Official Journal L 58 of 24.2.2007].

See also

Last updated: 07.12.2011