EU: Stopping foreign terrorist fighters

Since 2015, there has been an increase in religiously-inspired terrorism in the EU. By 2017 about 5,000 individuals from the EU were believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq to join jihadist terrorist groups, but the number has dropped significantly since.

In 2019, few of those foreign fighters were reported to have returned, however hundreds of Europeans with links to Islamic state remain in Iraq and Syria.

In order to criminalise acts such as undertaking training or travelling for terrorist purposes, as well as organising or facilitating such travel, Europe put in place EU-wide legislation on terrorism that, together with new controls at the external borders, will help to tackle the foreign fighter phenomenon.

Preventing radicalisation

Terrorists and extremists use the internet to spread propaganda and radicalisation. In April 2021, Parliament approved new rules forcing online companies such as Facebook or YouTube to remove terrorist content or disable access to it in all EU countries within one hour after receiving an order from relevant authorities. The new rules do not apply to journalistic or educational content.

Find out more about how the EU is boosting cybersecurity

Radicalisation and countering it was one of the focus points of a special committee on terrorism, which concluded its one-year work in December 2018. Parliament suggested an EU watch list of hate preachers, because they can now operate undetected if they move from one European country to another. Members also recommended segregating radicalised inmates in prisons as well specific training on radicalisation for EU and member states officials.

Most of the terrorist attacks in Europe were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists, European citizens born in the EU who radicalised without even leaving Europe. Parliament proposed measures to fight radicalisation and extremism in prisons, online and through education and social inclusion already in 2015.

In December 2020, Parliament endorsed the EU Security Union strategy 2020-2025 and the new Counter-Terrorism Agenda, which aims to prevent radicalisation by providing, for example, opportunities for young people at risk and supporting the rehabilitation of radicalised prisoners.

Reducing access to dangerous weapons

The EU does everything possible to prevent dangerous weapons coming into the hands of the wrong people.

The revised firearms directive closes the legal loopholes which allowed terrorists to use reconverted weapons for example in the Paris 2015 attacks. It requires EU countries to have a proper monitoring system while keeping exceptions for hunters, museums and collectors.

The vast majority of terrorist attacks in the EU were perpetrated using home-made bombs. It will be harder for terrorists to get hold of the ingredients needed to build explosives thanks to stricter rules agreed by Parliament in April 2019.

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The European Parliament Press Service is based in Brussels.

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