by: European Centre for Counterterrorism & Intelligence Studies, Netherlands & Germany
The New European Measures and Laws to Combat Terrorism and Extremism in 2018
What are the new European measures and laws to combat terrorism and extremism in 2018?
After Europe had become a constant target for terrorist operations, European States sought to make several plans to confront terrorism. The procedures varied from one state to another, as shown below:
Belgium came at the top of Terrorism Exporting States, where the number of its fighters in Syria and Iraq reached 450. Belgium was described as the weakest link in Europe’s intelligence agencies.
For instance, Salah Abdul Salam’s case is the perfect example for the failure of European intelligence, the Belgian and French in particular, in counter-terrorism cases. After two years from his detention, they couldn’t sentence him, and they failed to deal with the case as they should.
However, Belgium recently took several measures in response to recommendations from the Risk Analysis Center and the Strategic Committee for Intelligence and Security, where the security alert level in Belgium remained at (3), which comes right before the emergency state (level 4). Security services were authorized to monitor outgoing phone calls to other countries, and to use fake identities to protect their agents. They were also authorized to incrementally isolate suspected extremists, and put them in segregation units inside prisons to avoid spreading extremism among other prisoners. The government froze assets belonging to suspects in Brussels and Paris attacks, and banned the sale of chemicals that can be used in the manufacturing of IEDs, such as Acetone Peroxide, which ISIS prefers.
However, Belgium has to forge policies that absorb the Muslim community and other communities; provide them with education and job opportunities; and take care of Muslim neighborhoods across Europe and its peripheries, in the form of services and openness.
The German Domestic Intelligence Service recorded a significant increase in “Jihadi” calls for carrying out attacks in Germany. It observed a change in the nature of terrorist threats, warning from the use of social media in planning terrorist operations and recruiting youth.
Therefore, Germany developed new strategies for combating terrorism and extremism. In June 2018, Germany increased joint checkpoints across the borders of Austria, to watch the Brenner border crossing. In April 2018, the German authorities stripped dual nationality fighters of their German citizenship, and deprived terrorists from passports and nationality, provided that they have another nationality. In January 2018, a report stated that social media platforms face fines up to $60 million if they failed to remove illegal content and calls of violence and terrorist acts.
Germany should enhance monitoring and inspection operations on the borders; strengthen cooperation with companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube to quickly remove extremist content; intensify intelligence cooperation between the Federal Government and the entire German states; and develop new mechanisms to monitor the extremist elements who are being released.
The Italian authorities deported 36 people in 2017, for reason related to public security, while the total number since 2015 was 168. The authorities made legislative amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Act, since February 2015, which included the aggravation of penalties; the prohibition of traveling abroad to fight with terrorist organizations; the expulsion of foreigners involved in terrorism; and the withdrawal of passports from suspects with unspecified nationality.
The French government introduced an “integrated strategy and not separated measures” to combat terrorism and fight extremism, particularly inside state institutions, as a proactive confrontation to any potential terrorist threat.
In June 2018, the French intelligence made complete files for people considered to be security threat. The government and security services established a special agency concerned exclusively with tracking those people. The new agency’s task will be to observe signs that indicate the willingness to commit a terrorist act.
In April 2018, President Emmanuel Macron announced a group of themes concerning the new counter-terrorism project: developing new legal frames for the establishment of Muslims’ representative bodies; organizing the financing of places of worship and monitoring them by the French government; developing new mechanisms to monitor accounts and mosques’ financing entities; and creating the “Paris Coalition” to combat terrorism, on the ground and online.
The French authorities should coordinate intelligence exchange concerning dangerous people; find a joint strategy that involves security and legal policies; enhance cooperation between local authorities and qualify employees to recognize signs of extremism; strengthen control on French internal and external borders; and restructure intelligence agencies.
The British government unveiled its new counter-terrorism strategy “CONTEST,” which was developed after the terror attacks of 2017. It aims to enhance cooperation between the British security agencies, and improve the use of data inside police and intelligence agencies to detect activities that pose a terrorist threat.
This strategy included a faster exchange of information between MI5, the police, local authorities, and the private sector.
The new strategy provides for reporting the security services about any suspicious purchase faster. The British government pledged in June to spend an additional £50 million on counter-terrorism, which makes the total amount dedicated to counter-terrorism £750 million. Neil Basu, National Coordinator for Counterterrorism Policing in the United Kingdom, confirmed the implementation of “exclusion” policy on about 200 out 300 dual nationality terrorists.
In February 2018, the British government uncovered a new technology designed to remove extremist content from social media networks. The new technology was developed by ISI Data Science, and funded by the British government.
However, Britain should increase spending on security services, in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks; make improvements in applying the international criteria of combating money-laundering and terror funding; accelerate checking operations on its borders to enhance counter-terrorism means.
Sweden adopted new laws and measures that would arrest suspicious people, who are likely to plan terrorist operations. The new laws involve people who collect available materials, which can be used in making explosives.
The government suggests that the new legal proposal enters into force in September 1, 2018.
The Swedish security services consider a new legislation that facilitates the implementation of a law that criminalize travel to join terrorist organizations, in addition to preventing the use of unregistered prepaid SIM cards, because the Swedish police thinks that this kind of cards is widespread in “crime environment.”
Sweden paid attention to holding joint forums to exchange experiences and security cooperation between states in combating extremism and terrorism. This included, without limitation, the forum organized by the Moroccan Embassy in Sweden and the Swedish Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, titled “A Struggle for Hearts and Minds – Combating Violent Extremism.”
The Spanish government undertook the “Memory and Counter-Terrorism” project in education departments in La Rioja, and Castile and Leon, through dedicating a whole unit in Geography and History to terrorism. This educational project is set to start throughout Spain in the academic year 2019 in high schools.
In January 2018, the Spanish Interior Ministry tightened control on social media, particularly on Twitter. It also stressed on taking measures against any content that incites terrorism on social media networks.
ISIS has recently taken an online blow, which is considered the hardest since its rise in 2014, as a result of an operation led by the Spanish Civil Guard and supported by the police of 12 countries, where they succeeded in dismantling a large part of ISIS propaganda machine.
A study conducted by the International Observatory of Studies on Terrorism in February 2018 found that the main threat to Spain’s security lies in the increasing numbers of sympathizers of terrorist organizations. The study showed that Moroccan hardliners pose the main threat to Spain’s security, followed by Algerians (4%), and Egyptians (3%).
A report issued in August 2017 showed that Barcelona is one of the Jihadist centers in Spain, where 723 Jihadists were arrested since 2004. The Spanish AICS (Asesoría de Inteligencia y Consultoría de Seguridad) warned in January 2017 from al-Qaeda threats to seize Ceuta and Melilla on the North African Coast.
The Spanish government should enhance security cooperation between security services, coordinate intelligence exchange about dangerous people, and take the appropriate measures before granting asylum.
- The Netherlands
The Dutch government made a number of laws to help in countering terrorism, such as the Wiretap Law which expands the surveillance powers of security and intelligence agencies over online calls and Internet traffic.
The Dutch authorities developed a law that enables the deprivation of nationality as a measure to protect the national security, which entered into force in March 2017. The Netherlands stripped for the first time the nationality of four people, described as “Jihadists.” The Ministry of Justice confirmed in September 2017 that the four men joined terrorist militias, such as ISIS in Syria.
The Netherlands participated in international forums concerned with countering and confronting terrorism. The 13th meeting for the Coordination Committee of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum was held in Tokyo, Japan, in March 2018. The Forum was co-chaired by the Netherlands and Morocco. A new initiative was introduced, titled “The Initiative on Improving Capabilities for Detecting and Interdicting Terrorist Travel through Enhanced Terrorist Screening and Information Sharing.”
The Netherlands should tighten control on its borders to prevent infiltration of terrorists; freeze the assets of whoever carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in, facilitated or funded acts of terror; and find a new system to closely monitor the extremists or people involved in crimes who are being released.
- The European Commission
In April 2018, the European Parliament endorsed a proposal of the European Commission that includes more financial transparency necessary for the improvement of combating terror funding, money-laundering, and organized crime.
In June 2018, the European Parliament announced that a political solution was reached concerning the European Commission Security Union’s proposal about improving the Schengen system to exchange information between intelligence, border guards and police, to ensure better surveillance for those crossing the EU borders, and help police forces to arrest ISIS-linked terrorists.
In April 2018, the European Commission announced the confrontation of fake documents with the aim of countering terrorism, and its willingness to make digital identification data, such as fingerprints, obligatory in national IDs.
Terrorist Threat Level in Europe
In April 2018, the Europol stated that the terrorist threat in Europe seems high, and that the potential number of terrorists in the EU could reach 30,000 people.
There should be coordination between the different security services in the EU States. The EU States should use more powerful regulations regarding financial transparency to prevent terrorism financing; adhere to high standards in combating terrorism and money-laundering; improve citizens’ security in the EU States; and perform regular checking operations on the external borders of the EU.
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