Commissioner Johansson EP Plenary 11 November 2020

Thank you President, Honourable Members of the Parliament.

I think we are all still in shock because of the recent terrorist attacks in Austria, in France.

My thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends. My thoughts are with the French and the Austrian people.

And I know yours are as well.

Let’s be clear: these were attacks on our European values, on fundamental rights and freedoms.

Samuel Paty taught history, geography, and civics. His brutal murder was a direct attack on our values, rights and freedoms. The freedom of expression and information. The right to education. The freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

We need to unite and show strong solidarity. As a Union. No Member State can or should face this threat alone.

We need to unite as a society. We need to show that our values are unbreakable and that we cannot be divided on this.

And we need to do more, to protect our citizens, our societies, and our values.

The Vienna attack shows the need to stop illegal firearms. Member States must urgently implement the Firearms Directive.

Before the summer we launched an Action Plan against Firearms Trafficking. We are working closely with Western Balkans partners to fight smuggling of illegal guns.

And we need to register all known foreign terrorist fighters in the Schengen Information System. So we can detect them when they try to cross EU borders.

The Vienna attacker tried to buy ammunition in Slovakia. There were contacts in Germany and Switzerland. We need to better share information, and share better information, across internal borders.

Schengen Information System is central here. But so is also Passenger Name Records, PNR, essential to deter and detect terrorist suspects. Member States should implement the PNR Directive.

I am planning to update the so-called Prüm decisions, to make it easier for law enforcement to exchange DNA, fingerprints and number plates. In future, possibly also photos and police records.

I want us together in the European Union to move away from ad-hoc police cooperation towards systematic police partnerships. The Commission has started work on an EU police cooperation code.

Better information sharing also means making sure that IT systems can talk to each other. Member States need to work hard to achieve full interoperability by 2023.

Europol is the backbone of European police cooperation, and Europol is providing concrete and invaluable support to the French and Austrian authorities as we speak.

Already this year, I will propose to reinforce Europol’s mandate so it can do an even better job at fighting crime and terror.

The recent attackers struck in a church in Nice, in the streets and cafés of Vienna. The Commission is supporting Member States to increase the protection of public spaces.

Small actions can make a difference, sometimes between life and death. Last year, a far right terrorist attacked a synagogue in Halle in Germany. A reinforced door and security cameras helped to save dozens of lives.

The Commission made 12 million euro available to improve security in places of worship. I am looking into possibilities to increase this amount.

Samuel Paty’s murderer used the internet to identify his horrible crime; afterwards posted pictures of his victim online. The Vienna attacker posted a picture with an AK-47.

In July this year, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit took down 2,000 links to terrorist content – including tutorials on how to carry out an attack.

Europol will continue to work with platforms who want to help. But voluntary cooperation is not enough.

Member States need to be able to order the removal of terrorist content from any hosting service provider – irrespective of its place of establishment, with EU-wide effects, in one hour.

I call on this House, this Parliament, for an agreement on the proposed Regulation to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online as soon as possible.

Besides police intervention, the European Union also invests in the prevention of radicalisation. Prevention is better than cure.

It is difficult to measure terrorist attacks that are prevented, but our police forces with the help of Europol work hard every day to do just this.

The Radicalisation Awareness Network connects teachers, social workers and community police offers. When they successfully lead someone away from violence, there are seldom big headlines. But the results are spectacular. There are former neo-Nazis, former violent Islamists, who now reject violence and help others to do the same.

Without the Radicalisation Awareness Network and their job, these people should perhaps still be a danger to society.

In a few weeks, on 9th of December, I will present our new counter-terrorism agenda.

The objective will be to identify and close security gaps: in law enforcement cooperation, in the use of technology and information sharing. To prevent radicalisation, to protect public spaces, and to work with Member States, regions, cities and towns, and also with key third country partners.

But we also need to look beyond counter-terrorism.

Terrorists seek to divide us. Between “them” and “us”.

We can only counter that by offering an inclusive, cohesive society in which everyone has a stake. Where there is no “them” and “us”.

Later this month I will launch an Action Plan on integration and inclusion.

Based on opportunities and obligations: Everyone who has a legal right to be in Europe, should have the opportunity to take part in society.

A society where everyone is protected by European values and fundamental rights. And where everyone must respect those same values and rights.

That includes the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression. Fundamental rights the EU will defend. That includes also the freedom of religion – but we will never accept violence in the name of religion.

Education, culture and sport also have a key role to play in this.

Mr President, today is Armistice Day. Europe commemorates the end of the First World War. 102 years ago.

A war that started with a violent attack. The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Few attacks have such cataclysmic consequences.

But this is what we mean by terrorist offences: intentional acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation.

But this reminds us that our struggle is not a new one.

When I grew up, it was the RAF. The Red Brigades. The IRA. The ETA.

The terrorists change, their causes change and their methods change.

What doesn’t change is the fear, death and suffering that they bring.

What we must do is to be united, as a Union and as a society.

And to do everything we can to oppose them, to fight them, to defeat them.

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