European Commission Subcommittee on Terrorism
Letter from the Director
It is my pleasure to introduce myself as your chair for the European Commission’s Subcommittee on Terrorism! My name is Jessica Ainooson and I am junior at Yale. I was born and raised in Boston though my family is from Ghana. I am currently a History of Science and Medicine major and part of the Global Health program at Yale. As a member of Yale International Relations Association (YIRA), I am involved in Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY) which is Yale’s college conference and was also a part of Yale Model United Nations (YMUN) as well. When I’m not in business casual clothes, I can be found dancing with my African Dance Group Dzana or sharing poetry with my spoken word group Oye. I love to listen to music, cook, watch YouTube videos, and take an extreme amount of Buzzfeed quizzes in spare time.
My goal for this committee is to truly delve into a topic that has come to define 21st century living: terrorism. While terrorism is often mentioned in the public discourse, the goal of the committee is truly illuminate the multitude of layers to this issue. As a history major and individual passionate about public health and wellbeing, terrorism presents a challenge. Why is terrorism a problem? How does terrorism continue to exist? And most of all, what can we do to protect people, especially members of the EU? I hope this committee will challenge you, but also drive you to new innovative approaches and generate a more nuanced view of this topic. This committee will be a journey — one I am excited to undertake with you all.
Even before YMGE begins, I would like you all to feel comfortable and supported as you plan for YMGE in November. If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to say hi, please feel free reach out to me through my email (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Looking forward to meeting you all in the coming months!
Topic Blurb: Improving the European Union’s anti-terrorism policy
In June of 2017, the European Parliament voted to create a subcommittee dedicated to untangling the practical and legislative deficiencies in the European Union’s anti-terrorism policy. The mandate would last 12 months unless prolonged. In that time, the committee would be tasked with examining and evaluating current policies with the goals of remedying the continued oversights across various EU nations. This will be executed through discussion amongst the committee, hearings, and visits from other relevant parties such as agencies, national parliament, law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, judges, and victims’ organizations. As members of the European Commission’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, you have a task that is both enormous and imperative. In recent years, the European Union has faced increasing violence from terrorists, placing our citizens in danger. Current policies have proved ineffective. In response, our committee will discuss nuanced topics within anti-terrorism including but not limited to terrorist financing, radicalization, and protecting the rights of victims. The goal is to be able to provide member states with a final report detailing our findings and recommendations for the future of EU anti-terrorism policy.
Originally created in 1958 as the Common Assembly, today’s European Parliament represents the legislative assembly of the European Union (EU) with over 700 members. While the Parliament once consisted of representatives selected by national EU Parliaments, members of the European Parliament (MEPS) are elected to five-year terms though universal voting. MEPs are proportional to the member state’s population, explaining why Germany has more than 70 MEPs but Luxembourg has fewer than 7 MEPs. There are also specialized committees which can focus on specific topics such as “foreign affairs, budgets, agriculture, economic and monetary affairs, employment, women’s rights, citizens’ freedoms and rights, the environment, and regional affairs.” Additionally, there are committees established with a brief mandate in order to address topical issues. It is also important note that the Parliament includes a Secretariat mainly responsible for translating and interpreting between the EU’s 23 official languages.
Since its inception, the European Parliament has gained many more powers, completely evolving from its original reach as a legislative group.
The Parliament has veto power in spheres relating to economics and budgeting. Since 2009, the Parliament has adopted “codecision procedure” meaning that the Parliament adopts legislation in tandem with the Council of the European Union. Furthermore, the Parliament functions as a democratic check on other EU institutions including the power to remove the president of the European Commission.
The European Parliament and its members work to protect the rights and democracy of the EU, even working to protect these rights outside of EU borders. Founding texts of the EU advocate for democratic principles and basic rights at home and abroad. Some of the key values that can be identified in Article 2 of the Treaty of European Union are:
Respect for human dignity
Rule of law
Respect for human rights
Subcommittee on Terrorism
A little over a year ago, the mandate of the Subcommittee on Terrorism was adopted 573 to 73 with 36 abstentions. 30 MEPs would work for a year to examine current counter-terrorism measures, improve information sharing, and measure the impact on fundamental rights. The goal of the committee is to generate two reports based on “factual findings and recommendations”: a mid-term and final report. To generate this report, this subcommittee will hold hearings and visits with a wide range of relevant parties including but not limited to other EU institutions, national parliaments and governments, law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, judges, and victim organizations. The committee is also expected to cover a multitude of topics such as:
the implementation of existing measures in the field of external border management
deficiencies in sharing judicial, law enforcement and intelligence information among member states
the interoperability of European information-sharing databases
the impact of EU anti-terror laws on fundamental rights
radicalisation and the effectiveness of de-radicalization programmes
money laundering and terrorism financing, including its links to organised crime
best practice with regard to the protection of soft targets and critical infrastructure, such as airports and train stations
Source: European Parliament
This committee represents an opportunity for the European Parliament to make great improvement in counter-terrorism policies, partnerships, and continue to sustain its commitment to human rights. As MEP Antonio Panzeri said, “Terrorism constitutes a serious threat to human rights and democracy.”
This subcommittee will function similarity to most committees in that it will follow customary Parliamentary Procedure. However, in order to fulfill our mandate and delve into issues of interest, our committee will rely on information gathered from interactions with person, councils, and organizations of interest outside of the committee. These interactions could include interviews, correspondence, and visits. I encourage each of you to come prepared to ask questions and learn from those inside and outside of our committee. Furthermore, instead of the customary resolution or directive writing, the final goal of this committee will be a report to the EU member states similar to the actual committee. The report will be a brief review of factual finding and comprise of a series of recommendations on the salient topics debated throughout the conference. The report will be the product of committee debate, conclusions, and cooperation. While it is a hefty task, I am assured this committee will be able to complete our mandate.
While terrorism might appear to be a 21st century problem, acts that constitute “terrorism” date back thousands of years. For example, in the first century AD, the Sicarii were an early Jewish terrorist group formed to overthrow Romans in the Middle East. Terrorism also had its roots in early resistance and political movements. However, over time, the act of terrorism has involved, incorporating new goals, tactics, and actors.
The English world terrorism comes the Reign of Terror that lasted from from 1793 to 1794 after the French Revolution. Defined then as an instrument of the state, the regime used terror to bolster its new power and eliminate any potential threats.
Maximilien Robespierre, a French Revolutionary leader, famously declared, “Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs.” This view of terrorism would morph as different actors used it to achieve their own political goals.
Modern terrorism emerged after World War II when various nationalist movements arise to overthrow European colonialism. These anti-colonial movements, usually outnumbered and out armed, relied on terrorism to generate publicity for their causes and influence global policy. A famous example of this is the armed wing of the African National Congress uMkhonto we Sizwe that fought for the end of the South African apartheid.
Today’s definition of terrorism is largely influenced by the attacks of September 11, 2001 (better known as 9/11) which launched the “Global War on Terrorism” and invasions in the Middle East (namely Afghanistan and Iraq). The attacks that killed about 3,000 people is the deadliest terrorist incident in human history.
Prior to those attacks, most terrorist attacks with focused in Latin America and Asia. In contrast, between 9/11 and 2008, more 25 percent of all terrorist attacks took place in Iraq. Furthermore, since 9/11, terrorism has largely been equated to radical religious beliefs and even more specifically, the threat of groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State more recently. Fears of modern terrorism also include the concern that attacks will get increasingly deadly and potentially include weapons of mass destruction. Modern-day terrorism has global implications and because of this, any efforts to counteract the issue must go beyond the scope of defeating a particular organization and include multilateral cooperation and “a broad-based approach”.
While the definition and practice of terrorism have constantly evolved, terrorism is mainly understood as “the use or threat of violence to further a political cause.” However, there is no universally agreed definition of terrorism. Many agencies, governments, and actors have different requirements which can make data collection and analysis difficult. Some key points to remember in defining terrorism for our purposes is that it includes:
A deliberate use of violence during a campaign
Using this violence to influence through fear
The violence is targeted at civilians
Defined by political goals
Similar to how the definition of terrorism has shifted through time, its tools and tactics have also changed. A clear example of this is aviation terrorism, a recently developed tactic that marked the beginning of international terrorism. The 1968 hijacking of an Israeli plane by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that lead to the release of Arab prisoners in exchange for the hostages is an early example of aviation terrorism.
The success of this early hijacking led Zehdi Terzi, the first PLO representative to the United Nations, to say that the hijackings “aroused the consciousness of the world and awakened the media and world opinion much more--and more effectively--than 20 years of pleading at the United Nations.” It is important to note that the 9/11 attacks were a result of two plane hijackings.
Another key tool for terrorism has been the Internet. The Internet has replaced print and other physical media that had to be carried or transported. The true advantage of the Internet is that it is a free vehicle to communicate messages and goals to world, making recruitment and attack coordination even easier. Additionally, Internet communication can be quite difficult to catch. The Islamic State has demonstrated how the internet can be both a modern-day blessing and curse. Through its social media and online propaganda, the Islamic State has been able to draw in thousands of foreign fighters.
EU and Terrorism
The EU’s growing area of free movement has been a recent target of terrorist, inciting fear and concern. A 2018 survey found that for about 50 percent of European citizens, terrorisms ranks as the top priority, of whom 77 percent believe there needs to be more EU intervention. An earlier survey done in 2015 found that 25 percent of people living in the EU believed terrorism was the most important issue facing the EU. These numbers have increased in the face of more recent terrorist attacks. For instance, in 2017, 65 percent of Italians reported being somewhat worried about an attack.
These fears and concerns are not unfounded. Terrorist attacks and the mechanisms to prevent them has had a real cost for the EU. For example, from 2014 to 2020, it is predicted the EU will spend an average of 2.5 billion euros on security each year. According to Rand Europe, from 2004 to 2016, the EU lost around 180 billion euros in GDP due to terrorism. The United Kingdom suffered 43.7 billion, France 43 billion, and Spain 40.8 billion. Marco Hafner, a senior economist at RAND, said, “Besides the obvious physical devastation and emotional trauma, there is a negative impact on economic growth in the countries where these terrorist attacks take place. When you bear in mind the infrequent nature of terror events in Europe, the GDP losses that occur to national economies are notable.” An increase in terrorist attacks are also associated with lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness at the population level.
The EU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to prevent terrorism. The European Commission’s Home Affairs states, “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.” In 2005, the EU adopted the EU Counter Terrorism Strategy, a holistic counter terrorism response focused on combating terrorism globally “while respecting human rights and allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and justice.” The strategy has four main tenets:
Preventing people from turning terrorist and stopping the growth of terrorist organizations
Protecting citizens and key infrastructures by working to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attacks
Pursuing and investigating terrorist by hampering planning, travel, communication, and funding for materials
Responding coordinated across the EU to manage and minimize terrorist attacks by putting victims first and building capacity to handle the aftermath of these attacks
New EU counterrorism policies focus on building greater coordination and knowledge as well improving the capacity to information share across member states and organizations such as Europol and Eurojust. Within this, the EU adopted a framework decision in 2002 to combat terrorism that requires member states to introduce mechanisms for punishing terrorism and harmonize current punishments. In 2008, this was amend to criminalize other offences including provocation, recruitment, and training for terrorist purposes. In the past, EU counter-terrorism measures have evolved in response to events. Prime example of this phenomenon is the European Arrest Warrant and the setting up of Eurojust after 9/11 attacks. Additionally, the counterterrorism strategy was created after the Madrid and London bombing which subsequently lead to the data retention directive requiring communication providers to store data about their customers for up to two years that was soon declared void by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). New measures will require the delicate act of balancing personal freedom with necessary security coordinated across all EU member states.
Committee Topics of Consideration
Assessment of Current EU Policy
The 2017 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (Te-Sat) by Europol found that in 2016, member states reported a total of 142 failed, foiled, and completed attacks. The terrorist threat in the EU is predicted to increase over the next five years (most likely due to foreign fighters from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq). Furthermore, the techniques and tools used by terrorist are constantly changing making the review of policies more necessary than ever. In this vein, how can the EU’s counter-terrorism policy be improved?
Even since 9/11, the EU has set itself apart as a key player in the global fight against terrorism. The EU has been responsible for bringing many new initiatives to the UN as well as providing necessary aid and assistance to third states. However, There are opportunities to improve cooperation between police and judicial branches, make data exchange even easiest, and improve border control. Many mechanisms are currently in place, but recent terrorist attack make it clear that the current systems are far from perfect. The 2005 EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy based on prevention, protection, pursuit and response and the updated Terrorism Action Plan provides the framework for the continued development of the EU’s counter-terrorism policy.
Mitigating Terrorist Financing
A recent topic of discussion has been money laundering and terrorist financing. The first EU anti-money laundering Directive adopted in 1990 was modified in both 2015 and 2018 to adopt a more modernized framework for reducing terrorist financing (called the (4th and 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive) . It included provisions to:
Enhance transparency by setting up publicly available registers for companies, trusts and other legal arrangements
Enhance the powers of EU Financial Intelligence Units by giving them more access to information
Limit anonymity associated with virtual currencies and wallet providers
Expand the criteria used to access the risk of third countries and improve safeguards in transactions to and from those countries
Strengthen transparency rules to prevent the large-scale concealment of funds
Set up central bank account registries or retrieval systems in all Member States
Improve coordination between anti-money laundering supervisors and the European Central Bank
Despite efforts to improve the current system, there are still many weak spots susceptible to exploitation by various terrorist organizations. For example, the lack of coordination and delays in access across systems has allowed terrorists to transfer funds quickly and lead investigations to a dead end. The Commission has proposed giving law-enforcement authorities direct access to information about the identity of bank-account holders contained in national centralised registries as well as access from from national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) to speed up investigation and reduce the ease of cross-border crimes. Recent innovation in financial services such as prepaid cards and virtual currencies also create new opportunities for terrorist financing. Laws in this area must be adapted regularly to account for these new loopholes and stay ahead of fast-moving terrorist organizations.
Addressing Terrorist Propaganda
As mentioned earlier, online communication has been a key tool for terrorist organization to operate, recruit, and communicate to larger audiences. While it is impossible to completely remove internet propaganda, rapid identification and removal of online terror content have been identified as key places of intervention. Furthermore, about a third of those arrested for terrorist offenses in 2016 were 25 years old or younger. This highlights that youth support and strengthening social ties may be key to preventing radicalization in young people.
In that vein, the EU has introduced several initiatives to make tech companies such as Facebook and YouTube responsible for eliminating terrorist propaganda on their platforms. Earlier in the year, recommended guidelines passed that would give companies a 60 minute window to delete terrorist content after it has been flagged. The EU has considered strengthening this by making it into law that would punish companies with fines if they do not comply.
Three main trends have been used to combat terrorist propaganda or create counter narratives:
Disrupting the distribution of propaganda especially by flagging social media posts and deleting accounts (This would describe the recent EU legislation on YouTube and Facebook)
Redirecting potential recruits to different messages in an effort to change their behavior
Creating various forms of counter narratives through:
Developing communication campaigns determined to confront and undermine propaganda
Generating messages connected to real life events and perspectives linking across government and international partners that emphasize the link between message and action
Protection of Rights of Victims
“Victims of terrorism have suffered acts of savagery that have attacked our physical and psychological integrity as well as our most fundamental human right—the right to life, to live in peace and safety.”
- Joaquin Vidal Ortiz, a victim of a terrorist attack
In 2008, the first global Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism took place in New York including victims, field experts, UN member states, and other relevant parties. The symposium took place just before the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism
Strategy was reviewed and reaffirmed by member states. The Strategy, similar to EU’s own strategy, emphasizes the solidarity of victims and the protection of their rights. It also urges Member States to end “the dehumanization of victims of terrorism” and provide the necessary support for these victims.
Key themes have emerged from this symposium and later discussion on how to best serve and protect victims of terrorist attacks. Some of these are:
Giving victims legal status
Providing victims with medical, psychosocial and financial support
Improving media coverage of victims as well as giving them a face an a voice
Another potential problem can be the speed by which victims are identified. This requires that government authorities have proper identification techniques for those killed in terrorist attack. Furthermore, this is an important step since most affected by terrorism wish to have material evidence of their loved one’s demise. Secondly, after an attack, the processes for reserving medical and psychosocial support (including reintegration into jobs, schools, and communities) can be quite lengthy and isolating, emphasizing the need to protect victim’s dignity. Thirdly, victim compensation requires government planning and coordination. Different models are already in practice such as the French Guarantee Fund for victims of terrorist crimes financed by national participation on insurance contracts and the German law on victims rights which provides that 5 percent of pecuniary fines are directed to the victims organizations.
Questions to Consider
What factors can cause radicalization and what steps the EU take to target these vulnerable populations?
How can the EU intercept terrorist communication and financing without infringing on the personal freedoms of EU citizens?
What areas of the EU counterterrorism strategy require more cooperation between various parties?
What responsibility do third party organizations such as tech companies have to the fight against terrorism?
What kind of measures are already in place to support victims and where are places that the Eu can better support?
What new initiatives can the EU incorporate into its current counterterrorism strategy?
What lessons can be learned from the most recent terrorist attacks?
How can the EU continue to lead the way in global counterrorism and lend a hand to other third states?
Suggestions for Further Research