Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Frattini admits threat of EU 'home-grown terrorists'

  • The EU understands Washington's terror concerns (Photo: EUobserver)

EU security commissioner Franco Frattini has said he shares concerns recently expressed in Washington that Europe could become a platform for terrorist threats against the United States.

"We are in a war situation - as in the United States," Mr Frattini told the BBC on Wednesday (16 January), referring to the phenomenon of home-grown terrorism in Europe. "Day after day, we discover cells of terrorists," he added.

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According to the commissioner, 50 terror attacks were foiled in the EU bloc last year, but the terrorist profile is changing.

The would-be attackers appear to increasingly have been born in the union's territory, be well educated, well integrated, but still willing to become suicide bombers.

Washington is understandably concerned, the Italian commissioner concluded.

Mr Frattini's comments were in response to remarks by US homeland security chief Michael Chertoff on Islamic extremists in Europe.

"The terrorists are increasingly looking to Europe as both a target and a platform for terrorist attacks," he told the BBC's World News America on Tuesday (15 January).

Mr Chertoff also indicated that Washington is set to "elevate some of the security measures in the [visa waiver] programme," as it allows most Europeans easy access to the United States, but leaves "a very small window of opportunity to check" them out.

His statements were in reference to an online registration process for people who want to cross the Atlantic to enter the US. "That will allow us to clear them in advance, but do it in a way that is minimally inconvenient," the security chief concluded.

Commissioner Frattini, for his part, said without elaboration that he was "thinking of introducing a similar system at the European level," saying: "I cannot exclude people moving to Europe from dangerous areas in the world."

In February, Brussels plans to table a so-called entry-exit system, which would enable the EU to keep better track of who is entering and leaving its territory.

For similar reasons, the EU's executive has already kicked off what is set to be a lengthy legislative process that will ultimately result in an EU-wide air passenger register scheme in the same mould as the controversial US database on European air travellers.

Under the scheme, member states may collect 19 pieces of air passenger data, with the possibility of storing it for up to thirteen years. This, the scheme's proponents argue, will allow security authorities to identify high-risk passengers and to take appropriate measures such as secondary screening upon their arrival or refusing entry into the destination country.

Analysis

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The 22 March anniversary of the Brussels bombing will trigger a lot of soul searching. But EU counter-terrorism strategies over the past 10 years have been crisis-driven with little follow through or oversight.

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