The number of terrorist attacks and victims of terror in the EU continued to decrease in 2019. Check out our graph to see the evolution of jihadist terrorism since 2014. There were 119 terrorist attempts in Europe in 2019 counting the ones that were successfully carried out and those that failed or were foiled. Of those, 21 are attributed to jihadist terrorism. Although they represent only a sixth of all attacks in the EU, jihadist terrorists were responsible for all 10 deaths and 26 out 27 people who got injured.
About half of terrorist attacks in the EU are ethno-nationalist and separatist (57 in 2019, all but one in Northern Ireland) with the other main categories of terrorists being far-right (6) and far-left (26).
The numbers of victims of jihadist terrorism has further decreased since its peak in 2015 and in 2019 the number of attacks foiled by member state authorities was double the number completed or failed. However, according to Manuel Navarrette, the head of Europol’s counter-terrorism centre, the threat level is still relatively high.
Navarette presented Europol’s annual report on terrorist trends to Parliament’s civil liberties committee on 23 June. He said that there is the same trend of online communities instigating violence in right wing and jihadist milieus: “For the jihadists, terrorists are holy war martyrs, for right wing extremists, they are the saints of a racial war.”
Fewer terrorist attacks and terrorism victims
Ten people lost their lives in three completed jihadist attacks in the EU last year in Utrecht, Paris and London, compared to 13 deaths in seven attacks in 2018.
Eight EU countries suffered terrorist attempts in 2019.
Twice as many foiled attacks as completed or failed ones
In 2019, four jihadist attacks failed while 14 incidents were foiled, compared to one failed atack and 16 foiled ones in 2018. In both years, the number of plots foiled by authorities is double the number of completed or failed attacks. Jihadist-inspired attacks mostly target public places and police or military officers.
The completed and failed jihadist attacks were mostly carried out using knives and firearms,. All plots involving the use of explosives were disrupted. The majority of the perpetrators were acting or were planning to act alone.
In 2019, 436 individuals were arrested on suspicion of offences related to jihadist terrorism. The arrests occurred in15 countries. By far the most in France (202), between 32 and 56 in Spain, Austria and Germany and between 18 and 27 arrests in Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands. This figure is also lower than the previous year when a total of 511 people were arrested.
The threat of radicalized prisoners
People in prison for terrorist offences and those radicalised in prison pose a threat. In many European countries, a number of radicalised prisoners will soon be released and this could increase the security threat, Navarrette warned. In 2019 one failed attack, one foiled and one successful one were carried out by radicalized prisoners.
Reinforced co-operation between EU countries and information sharing have helped to prevent attacks or limit their impact, according to the head of Europol’s counter-terrorism centre. “Because of the information exchange, because of the connections that we have, member states manage to be early on the scene to identify the risks. For me it’s a good sign that two thirds of the attacks were identified and foiled thanks to the cooperation that is in place.”
No systematic use of migration routes by terrorists
Some have been concerned about the risk posed by migrants trying to enter Europe. Europol ’s report reiterates that as in previous years there are no signs of systematic use of irregular migration by terrorist organisations. In fact, in more than 70% of arrests related to jihadist terrorism, for which citizenship was reported to Europol, the individuals were nationals of the EU country in question.
Fighting terrorist content online: President von der Leyen to deliver video message at Christchurch Call summit on Friday
This Friday (14 May), President von der Leyen will deliver a video message at the Christchurch Call summit. Hosted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, the meeting will gather Heads of State or Government and tech sector leaders with the objective of stepping up cooperation on addressing terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Christchurch Call is a commitment by governments and tech companies to eliminate such content online, following the livestreamed terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. The Commission is a founding supporter of the Christchurch Call. Discussions at this year's summit will focus on crisis response, with a view to ensuring timely, consistent and well-coordinated action when responding to crisis situations involving the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online. Participants will also discuss transparency reporting, necessary to measure the extent of the threat posed by terrorist content online and monitor compliance of measures taken with fundamental rights.
They will then reflect on the need to better understand algorithms that promote content online, to evaluate the risks they could pose in terms of radicalization. In line with the commitments taken under the Christchurch Call, the Commission has acted to fight terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Commission launched the EU Internet Forum to facilitate co-operation with tech companies on addressing terrorist content online. In 2019, EU Internet Forum participants committed to an EU Crisis Protocol, allowing governments and online platforms to respond rapidly and in a coordinated manner to the dissemination of terrorist content online in the event of a terrorist attack.
The Commission is also working at the global level with tech companies under the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Beyond this voluntary approach, the EU has also agreed binding legislation. New EU rules adopted last month will oblige online platforms to remove terrorist content referred by member states' authorities within one hour while providing for strong safeguards to ensure the full respect of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and information.
Biden to join eastern European NATO states summit, focus seen on Ukraine
US President Joe Biden (pictured) joined a virtual summit of eastern European NATO states held in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Monday (10 May), Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said, with a focus on security in the Black Sea region and Ukraine.
The summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of European countries on the eastern edge of NATO, will be jointly hosted by Iohannis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda and aims at coordinating the security positions of countries in the region.
"Glad to welcome Joe Biden to the Bucharest9 Summit which I host in Bucharest today," Iohannis said on his Twitter account.
"Together with President Andrzej Duda we'll also welcome ... Jens Stoltenberg in preparation of NATO Summit, focusing on Transatlantic ties, NATO 2030, defence and deterrence on the eastern flank."
Biden, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will video-conference into the gathering.
"In ... the statement that the nine will publish after the meeting there will be the issue of security in the Black Sea region and the related security issues in Ukraine," the head of Poland's National Security Bureau, Pawel Soloch, told reporters.
Earlier this month, Washington said it could increase security help for Kyiv after Russia moved troops near its border with Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.
Commission makes €11 million available to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities and co-operation
The European Commission will make €11 million of funding available for 22 new projects seeking to strengthen the European Union's capacity to deter and mitigate cyber-threats and incidents, by employing the latest technologies. The projects, which have been selected following a recent call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility programme, will support various cybersecurity organisations in 18 Member States. The beneficiaries of the funding include Computer Security Incident Response teams, operators of essential services in the health, energy, transport and other sectors, as well as bodies dealing with the cybersecurity certification and testing, as defined in the EU Cybersecurity Act. They will start working after the summer on tools and skills necessary to comply with the requirements set by the NIS Directive and the Cybersecurity Act, while at the same time they will engage in activities aimed to enhance cooperation at the EU level. So far the EU has funded almost €47.5m to reinforce EU cybersecurity between 2014 and 2020, through the Connecting Europe Facility programme. Furthermore, more than €1 billion under the Digital Europe Programme will be directed towards the areas of focus of the new EU Cybersecurity Strategy. More information is available here. More information about Europe's actions to strengthen cybersecurity capacities is available here and EU-funded cybersecurity projects can be found here.
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