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28th Feb 2021

EU tables anti-foreign fighters laws

  • The package against terrorism and arms trafficking is a reaction to the Paris attacks on 13 November (Photo: Reuters)

The European Commission on Wednesday (2 December) adopted a two-fold package to address the terrorist threat and fight arms trafficking in the wake of the 13 November Paris attacks.

The first item is a proposal for a directive on terrorism that focuses on the phenomenon of so-called foreign fighters, who are mainly EU citizens.

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The proposed directive, which refers to foreign fighters as "people travelling to conflict zones, in particular to Syria and Iraq, to fight or train with terrorist groups,” introduces in EU law criminalisation of travelling and training for terrorist purposes, both within and outside the EU.

"The phenomenon is growing," the commission notes.

"By late 2014, the overall number of people who have departed from the EU to conflict areas was estimated to have exceeded 3,000 and is now assessed to have reached 5,000, while at the same time the number of returnees was reported to have increased in some member states."

The text also criminalises the funding, organisation, and facilitation of such trips, as well as the funding and logistical and material support to terrorist actions.

The second item of the package is an action plan against firearms trafficking and use of explosives.

Following measures taken in the wake of the Paris attacks to restrict acquisition of automatic weapons and introduce common and stricter standards of weapons deactivation, the commission is proposing to step up cooperation between member states to restrict access to firearms.

The EU executive asks for a greater role for Europol, the EU police support agency, against trafficking, through a recently established Internet Referral Unit.

The action plan also states that "organised crime and terrorist networks are known to evolve rapidly and to make the most of technological innovation" and says the commission will assess with member states, Europol, and the firearms and chemical industry "the impact of technological advancements on the potential availability of firearms and explosives.”

Member states are asked to carry out "risk-based controls on goods at the external borders,” to “explore the idea of prohibiting payments in cash for firearms sales" and t”o facilitate the exchange of ballistic information through a dedicated platform.”

The EU will develop cooperation with Middle East and North African countries as well as Turkey and Ukraine to fight arms trafficking.

The commission also told member states there is an "urgent priority" to fully implement a 2014 regulation on explosives to prevent acts of terrorism.

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