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Enhancing the security of explosives

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Enhancing the security of explosives

Starving terrorist organisations and groups of the components they need to commit terrorist attacks is absolutely essential for the European Union. In this Communication, the European Commission draws up an action plan to enhance the security of explosives and, through this, to prevent explosive devices being used against citizens. The plan is based on the principles of prevention, detection and response, and involves Member States, the Community institutions and the private sector.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 6 November 2007 on enhancing the security of explosives [COM(2007) 651 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


In this Communication, the European Commission draws up a plan of action for the enhancement of the security of explosives to make the production of explosives more difficult for terrorists.

Prevention, detection and response: taking specific actions

On the basis of the pillars of prevention, detection and response, the Annex to the Communication lists a series of measures to be taken, specifying the deadline and the competent body. These measures cover:

  • explosive precursors: prevention must be ensured within the entire supply chain (storage, transport and traceability) by means of checks for certain chemicals that can be converted into an explosive compound. Likewise, the awareness of all staff involved in the manufacture, storage and sale will have to be heightened so that they can identify suspicious transactions. Another preventive measure involves harmonisation of the criminal sanctions for disseminating bomb-making experience over the Internet;
  • detection: a comprehensive approach to detection is necessary where preventive measures have failed, especially as regards developing minimum detection standards or the appropriate use of detection technologies in specific locations;
  • response: if prevention and timely detection fail, the response is clearly up to the Member States. The European Union (EU) contributes all the necessary support. In addition, a European Explosive Ordnance Disposal Network should be created to improve the exchange of information and mutual confidence, contributing to the dissemination of best practices, the organisation of joint training sessions and keeping all interested parties up-to-date on recent developments.

Considering that the security of the EU and its citizens is dependent on efficient cooperation and coordination among the Member States, the European institutions and all other relevant stakeholders, there is a need, in the European Commission’s view, for the above-mentioned actions to be accompanied by horizontal measures, with the emphasis on:

  • improving the exchange of timely information and best practices by the early warning system and a European bomb data system, accessible round-the-clock to the police, customs, border guards, security services, army/national defence;
  • stepping up explosives-related research to respond to security threats: the Commission considers that investments in research are crucial and identifies several fields for research, such as the detection of improvised explosive devices at airports and inhibitors that can be added to explosives precursors.

Monitoring of the action plan and funding

The European Commission emphasises the importance of assessing the progress made in the implementation of this action plan and calls on Member States to provide it with information concerning progress in this respect at least once a year.

Funding opportunities will be available for activities relating to the security of explosives, for example under the 7th Framework Research Programme and the "Prevention of and Fight against Crime" programme, with a budget of around EUR 745 million for the period 2007-2013.

Background and recent developments

In the immediate aftermath of the Madrid attacks, on 25 March 2004, the European Council emphasised the need to ensure that terrorist organisations and groups are starved of the components of their trade, especially firearms, explosives, bomb-making equipment and the technologies that contribute to the perpetration of terrorist outrages. Following this declaration, the European Commission adopted a Communication on "Measures to ensure greater security in explosives, detonators, bomb-making equipment and firearms" [COM(2005) 329]. One of the measures included in this Communication is to draw up an EU action plan for the enhancement of the security of explosives. The Commission puts this into effect with the present Communication.

This was followed, in December 2007, by the Council adopting strategic orientations and priority actions on the security of explosives (pdf). At their meeting in April 2008, the Ministers for Justice of the Member States adopted a plan of action (pdf) for the European Union, which is largely based on the present Communication.


Council Decision 2007/125/JHA of 12 February 2007 establishing for the period 2007 to 2013, as part of General Programme on Security and Safeguarding Liberties, the Specific Programme Prevention of and Fight against Crime [Official Journal L 58 of 24.2.2007].

Directive 2007/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles [Official Journal L 154 of 14.6.2007].

Last updated: 10.06.2008