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Fight against terrorism – definitions of terrorist crimes and support to victims

Fight against terrorism – definitions of terrorist crimes and support to victims



Directive (EU) 2017/541 on combating terrorism


It aims to adapt EU law to fight terrorism in light of evolving terrorist threats and taking into account the international nature of terrorism.

It establishes minimum rules concerning the definitions of offences and related sanctions in this area.

It also introduces measures of protection, support and assistance for victims.

It replaces Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA as the cornerstone of the EU countries’ criminal justice response to counter terrorism, and amends parts of Decision 2005/671/JHA on the sharing of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences.


Definition of terrorist offences

The directive provides an exhaustive list of serious offences that EU countries must classify as terrorist offences in their national law when they are committed or there is a threat to commit them for a particular terrorist aim.

Terrorist aims are described as any of the following:

  • seriously intimidating a population;
  • unduly compelling a government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act;
  • seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

Related offences

The list of terrorist offences which EU countries must also punish as criminal offences, even if a terrorist offence was not effectively committed, is extended to cover:

  • offences related to a terrorist group (i.e. directing such a group or knowingly participating in its activities) when committed intentionally, and
  • offences related to terrorist activities. These include:
    • distributing, whether online or offline, a message with the intention of inciting a terrorist offence, for example by glorifying terrorist acts;
    • soliciting and recruiting another person to commit a terrorist offence;
    • providing or receiving training for terrorist purposes, for example, in the making or use of explosives, firearms or hazardous substances;
    • travelling inside, outside or to the EU for purposes of terrorism, for example to participate in the activities of a terrorist group or to carry out a terrorist attack;
    • organising and facilitating such travel, including logistical or material support, such as ticket purchases or route planning;
    • providing or collecting funds with the intention that they be used or in the knowledge that they be used to commit terrorist offences.

General features

These include:

  • improved rules:
    • on aiding and abetting, inciting and attempting, and
    • on jurisdiction and prosecution to ensure consistency and effective application of the relevant rules and to avoid loopholes;
  • the obligation for EU countries:
    • to introduce penalties and sanctions for physical persons and legal entities liable for the offences, which reflect the seriousness of the offences;
    • to take measures for the prompt removal of and blocking of access to online terrorist content hosted in their territory, and to obtain the removal of such content hosted outside their territory; and
    • to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles, as enshrined in Article 6 of the Treaty on the European Union when implementing this directive;
  • amendments brought to Decision 2005/671/JHA on sharing information and cooperating concerning terrorist offences.

Support for victims

  • The directive includes additional clauses concerning a range of services to meet the special needs of victims of terrorism, such as the right to immediate access to professional support services offering medical and psychological support and legal or practical advice.
  • It also strengthens emergency response mechanisms to assist victims of terrorism immediately after a terrorist attack.
  • EU countries must ensure that victims of terrorism who are residents of an EU country other than that where the terrorist offence was committed have access to:
    • information regarding their rights,
    • the support services and compensation schemes available in the country where the terrorist offence was committed.


It has applied since 20 April 2017. EU countries have to incorporate it into national law by 8 September 2018.



Directive (EU) 2017/541 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA (OJ L 88, 31.3.2017, pp. 6-21)


Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union — Title I — Common provisions — Article 6 (ex Article 6 TEU) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 19)

Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union (OJ L 127, 29.4.2014, pp. 39-50)

Successive amendments to Directive 2014/42/EU have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Directive 2013/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 August 2013 on attacks against information systems and replacing Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA (OJ L 218, 14.8.2013, pp. 8-14)

Council Decision 2005/671/JHA of 20 September 2005 on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences (OJ L 253, 29.9.2005, pp. 22-24)

See consolidated version.

Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (OJ L 164, 22.6.2002, pp. 3-7)

See consolidated version.

last update 20.02.2018