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Terrorism is a threat that does not recognise borders and may affect states and peoples irrespective of their geographical location. EU States and citizens are not an exception. Individuals and groups who believe that they can advance their political aims by using terror pose a serious threat to the democratic values of our societies and to the rights and freedoms of our citizens, especially by indiscriminately targeting innocent people. Acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, and must be treated as such under all circumstances.
The EU's increasingly open area of free movement could be abused by terrorists to pursue their objectives. In this context, concerted and collective EU level action is indispensible. Therefore, the EU has developed a holistic counter-terrorism response – the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Adopted in 2005, this strategy commits the Union to combating terrorism globally, while respecting human rights and allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and justice. It is built around four strands:
The Commission's main role in this area is to assist EU State authorities in carefully targeted actions and initiatives, primarily within the PREVENT and PROTECT strands. When necessary, the Commission also supports EU States by approximating the legal framework, in full respect of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. For example, Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, which was amended in 2008, provides a common definition of terrorist and terrorist-linked offences. It is important to remember that all operational work is performed by EU States' law enforcement and intelligence authorities.
Over the last years, the Commission has developed policies in all sectors related to the prevention of terrorist attacks and the management of their consequences, e.g. in countering terrorist financing and in hindering access to explosives and to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear materials. The Commission is also responsible for the European Programme for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure and the EU-US Agreement on Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme. It is currently developing a European equivalent of the latter programme.
One of the priorities is to prevent people from turning to terrorism by tackling the factors favouring its spread, which can lead to radicalisation and recruitment. The Commission also provides assistance to victims of terrorism.
Given that the implementation and further development of these policies rely on the availability of cutting-edge technologies, the Commission is involved in facilitating their advancement through security research projects.
Considering the global nature of terrorism, an effective response to such a challenge requires intense international cooperation. The Commission remains dedicated to cooperating with partner countries and international organisations, such as UN, G8, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
The Commission also has an important supporting and coordinating role to play in the field of European crisis management. EU States are responsible for managing natural or man-made disasters on their territories and for deciding whether they need external assistance. However, since disasters are often of a cross-border nature, they might require multilateral and coordinated responses.