With yet another jihadist attack on European soil behind us, one wonders whether European police authorities and security services have the right tools to combat terrorism or at least this kind of terrorism.

Jihadists in our midst

Europol chief Rob Wainwright said lately that the biggest obstacle faced by police and judicial authorities across Europe is a lack of sharing of information. He added that as many as 5000 Europeans travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight and as such, these people can return to Europe and be considered as 5000 potential terrorists. It only takes one to wreak havoc, as we saw in Denmark.

Many more volunteers have travelled to Syria and Iraq than to any other conflict zone in the past, many more will ultimately come back

Charles Farr, Director of the British Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, described the Syrian war this past summer as "a very profound game changer" for the extremist threat to Europe.[1]

It seems that the Islamic fanatics' desire to strike the West could well be on the rise, following the US bombing of ISIS targets that began in August 2014. Many more volunteers have travelled to Syria and Iraq than to any other conflict zone in the past, many more will ultimately come back.

The return of Western Muslims to their home countries may contribute to the outbreak of jihadi campaigns. Since they have already gained certain skills and experiences, they may later be tempted to target their own governments and societies

If the history of Arab Afghans[2] is a guide, the return of Western Muslims to their home countries may contribute to the outbreak of jihadi campaigns. Since they have already gained certain skills and experiences, they may later be tempted to target their own governments and societies. Transnational Islamist networks are the epitome of globalisation, and as such require a high level of intergovernmental cooperation to deal with this non-state security challenge.

Our reaction to this has to be swift, it has to be well thought-out and it has to be comprehensive.

Forewarned is forearmed

The former UK spy chief, Sir John Sawers, said the other day that another terrorist attack on British soil “would get through” at some point. He added that it was not possible to stop the Charlie Hebdo attack without a data-sharing agreement between governments and internet companies in order to allow security agencies to monitor people’s activity online.

Transnational Islamist networks are the epitome of globalisation, and as such require a high level of intergovernmental cooperation to deal with this non-state security challenge

The EPP Group has argued for years now in the European Parliament for data sharing agreements with both companies and governments, including the US. We fully support these agreements and are happy that the Left has now moved closer to our position. With the sharing of data between governments, police authorities would know almost instantly who travelled to Syria and Iraq and who returned.

Until now, governments have been unwilling to entrust other governments with secretive, classified information. But with the Paris and Copenhagen attacks behind us, exchange of information is now no longer a choice, it’s a must

It is clear that the biggest obstacle in security in Europe and indeed globally, is the lack of exchange of information. Until now, governments have been unwilling to entrust other governments with secretive, classified information. But with the Paris and Copenhagen attacks behind us, exchange of information is now no longer a choice, it’s a must.

The EPP Group has led efforts in the European Parliament to set up an EU airline passenger name record (PNR) system, which will track down jihadists and its data will be shared with all EU Member States' police and judicial authorities.

Sources:

[1] Byman, D, Shapiro, J (2014): Homeward Bound? Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec2014, Vol. 93 Issue 6, pgs 37-46. Available here.

[2] Karagiannis, E: Transnational Islamist Networks: Western fighters in Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 48 Issue 4, 2013, pgs 119-138. Available here.

Further Sources:

Egerton, F: Jihad in the West: The Rise of Militant Salafism. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Forest, J: The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training and Root Causes. Praeger Security International Press, London, 2006.

Marchal, R: Warlordism and Terrorism: How to obscure an already confusing crisis? The case of Somalia. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), 01/11/2007, Vol. 83(6), pgs 1091-1106. Availabe here.

Powell, B, Carsen, J, Crumley, B, Walt, V, Gibson, H, Gerlin, A, Graff, J, Walker, J, Mehmood, S, Smith, A: Generation Jihad. Time, 10/03/2005, Vol. 166 Issue 14, pgs 56-59. Available here.

Spence, D: The European Union and Terrorism. John Harper Publishing, 2007.

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