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Strasbourg, 21 January 2016
2015 has been a turning point in Europe's experience of terrorism.
Terror has claimed the lives of 150 innocent people.
Too many lives lost, and too many lives scarred.
We have to be realistic: the terrorist threat in the EU is high.
We are determined to respond with resolve and resilience, and at the same time to uphold our values of tolerance, democracy and respect for fundamental rights.
From day one of this Commission, we stressed that combating terrorism was a common European responsibility.
Our European Agenda on Security is on the table since last April.
As you know, we have drastically accelerated its delivery, with:
- The political agreement on EU PNR
- The Proposal for a Directive on Terrorism.
- The November Firearms package
- The Action Plan on firearms trafficking
- The EUROPOL regulation adopted in December
- The reinforced RAN Centre of Excellence to counter radicalisation
- The launch of the EU internet forum to counter harmful content online, and
- Just this week: the proposal to exchange the criminal records of non-EU nationals
These are all tangible measures to strengthen our security across borders.
And more is coming.
2016 will be the year where we go after terrorist money.
We need to deprive terrorists of their financial resources.
In early February, we will put our ideas forward with a concrete timetable.
Our Borders Package of last December is also a critical piece of the puzzle, because it will allow the systematic security checks of all people leaving and entering EU.
It is clear that we need to improve the management of our external borders, in order to enhance internal security and safeguard Schengen.
I want to be clear, once again, on a related point: refugees crossing our borders because they need international protection are not terrorists.
I want to reaffirm that we will never equate refugees with terrorists.
We cannot allow fear to prevail.
Let me finally turn to information sharing. This is a sensitive but critical issue.
As you know it is one of the central pillars of our Security Agenda.
The EU tools are there to facilitate the exchange of information between national law enforcement authorities.
The Schengen Information System, Europol's databases, the Prüm framework:
They should be used to the maximum by the Member States.
Member States need to trust each other more.
They need to share more information.
Between themselves, and also with Europol.
Law enforcement authorities across Member States, including specialised law enforcement agencies – we all work for the same purpose: the security of our citizens.
We need to understand that – collectively, we are all safer.
The threats we face are common.
Our approaches to the threats need to be common too.
This is not a competition.
We reinforce each other if we cooperate.
Information is already being exchanged at various levels – but we need more of it, not less.
Next week, we will officially launch the European Counter Terrorism Centre at Europol.
It has been operational since January 1, 2016.
This centre can become the hub of our counter-terrorism operations
IF we make the best use of it, and if Member States share information.
This centre can only succeed in its mission. if we all help it to succeed. The support provided by Europol to French and Belgian investigators after the Paris attacks is the best example of the role that the European Counter Terrorism Centre could play: cross checking data, facilitating information sharing, and providing analytical and operational assistance to the national services on the ground.
One year ago, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks,
we stressed that our response would not be dictated by fear, or driven by hasty conclusions.
The Commission proposed several concrete actions which are part of a comprehensive approach.
And in this collective effort, we have made progress.
But recent events remind us that we still need to do much more.
Now is the time to act and to strengthen our cooperation.
Let's make 2016 a turning point for Europe to tackle terrorism decisively, head-on, in all its aspects.