Counter terrorism proposals presented
Proposals to strengthen counter-terrorism policy in Europe were presented today by ECR Flemish MEP Helga Stevens’, parliament’s co-rapporteur on the special committee on terrorism.
The dedicated terrorism committee was established a year ago in order to look at issues such as improving the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities and increasing the interoperability of EU information systems in order to protect the safety of our citizens. Stevens’ draft report is based on intensive research and contacts with police and intelligence services across Europe and she hopes it will be a crucial step forward to a coherent and effective security policy.
Speaking after presenting her draft report, Stevens said:
“There are a great deal of counter terrorism measures already in place, what we are trying to do is identify gaps. This report must be an impetus to further increase the fight against terror and I hope for support across the political divide so that the recommendations can quickly lead to action, in the form of new legal instruments or practical measures. This all needs to be done to increase the safety of our citizens.”
The proposals in the report cut across a number of areas and institutions. For example, there are calls for the creation of a European watchlist, in order for Member States to share information about suspects who have been identified nationally, such as hate preachers. There are also suggestions to introduce criteria for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of deradicalisation programs and as well as the need for sanctions to close down organisations with suspicious funding sources.
Stevens also points to the importance of decrypting messages that are ‘encrypted’ when in the context of a judicial investigation. “Many Member States face difficulties in accessing information exchanged through communication channels such as WhatsApp and Messenger. In our report, we propose a European ‘decryption hub’, a centre of expertise within Europol that can decipher such messages so that crucial information becomes available to the authorities.”
Stevens also highlights the need for changes in sentencing guidelines. “A coherent approach to terror also means that justice must do its job. At present there are convicted terrorists who often get away with light punishments or sometimes even none at all. That feeling of impunity must come to an end. A lax sentencing regime only serves to encourage professional criminals who sometimes grow into full-fledged terrorists and we have to stop that.” Said Stevens.
Helga Stevens is co-rapporteur, together with the German EPP MEP Monika Hohlmeier.