European Law Monitor

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new f2Fight against terrorism tops agenda for European Union Home Affairs Ministers

Border security, migration and Syrian refugee crisis also discussed by European Union Interior Ministers at the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg

Fight against terrorism

Measures aimed at tackling terrorism were discussed the second day of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg.  Central to the debate were the risks posed by foreign fighters returning from conflict zones, notably in Syria, to European Union Member States.  Such individuals may pose a threat by radicalising and recruiting others due to their combat veteran status as well as by using their combat experience for terrorist acts.

Commenting on the discussion, Ireland's Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, said:

"Regrettably, there is evidence to suggest that some travelling fighters are being exploited and radicalised in trouble zones, such as North Africa and Syria, with a view to creating a threat to Europe upon their return. It is essential that we do all we can to protect young people from these dangers and to show them that there are more fruitful ways to make contributions to their societies than self destruction.”

The Ministers’ discussion, prompted by a paper presented by the European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, focused on the importance of taking a multi-dimensional approach to the phenomenon including analysis, prevention and the provision of assistance to individuals returning from conflict zones, in addition to criminal justice and law enforcement actions.

Council agreed to proceed with a package of measures proposed by the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator and asked him to report on progress later this year.  Ministers also called for an update of the European Union Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism with the aim of strengthening their fight against terrorism.

Syrian refugee crisis

Another troubling consequence of such appalling conflicts is the devastating effects they have on innocent civilian populations.  The meeting addressed the worsening refugee crisis resulting from the conflict in Syria.  Latest information from the UNHCR shows that there are over 1.5 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, 76% of whom are women and children.  It is estimated that a further 1.2 million people are internally displaced within Syria as a result of the conflict.  It is clear that the Syrian crisis continues to worsen and that the plight of refugees should be alleviated as much as possible.  Ministers had an informative discussion and will return to the matter at the Informal Council in Lithuania next month.

Asylum and border matters

The Irish Presidency was delighted to update Member States on provisional agreements reached with the European Parliament on a range of measures on asylum and border security matters.  Agreement was reached with the European Parliament on the completion of the Common European Asylum System in March and last week the Parliament and Presidency successfully completed negotiations on Schengen Governance.

Welcoming these successes, Minister Shatter said "I am pleased the Irish Presidency has been able to reach agreements with Parliament on the completion of the Common European Asylum System and on the Schengen Governance package.  These measures will help to ensure the consistent and equitable treatment of asylum seekers across the European Union and enhance the security and stability of the Schengen border-free arrangements, directly benefiting many millions of people within the European Union.”

Free movement

There was a constructive discussion on the issue of alleged abuse of free movement rights by some European Union nationals.  Council agreed that the Commission should further investigate the evidence available and report back to the Justice and Home Affairs Council in October 2013.