EU counterterrorism strategy: value added or chimera?



    1. Professor of International Relations at Ghent University in Belgium.
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      My sincere thanks go to the European and national officials who were extremely forthcoming in the course of refining this article, including by their comments on earlier drafts. I am grateful in particular to Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator; Michèle Coninsx, Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Team of Eurojust and Vice-President of Eurojust; and Glenn Audenaert, Director of the Federal Judiciary Police, Brussels. Others preferred to remain anonymous for reasons of discretion. All views expressed in this article are of course the sole responsibility of the author.


Europe did not wake up to terrorism on 9/11; terrorism is solidly entrenched in Europe's past. The historical characteristics of Europe's counterterrorism approach have been first, to treat terrorism as a crime to be tackled through criminal law, and second, to emphasize the need for understanding the ‘root causes’ of terrorism in order to be able to prevent terrorist acts. The 9/11 attacks undoubtedly brought the EU into uncharted territory, boosting existing cooperation and furthering political integration—in particular in the field of justice and home affairs, where most of Europe's counterterrorism endeavours are situated—to a degree few would have imagined some years earlier. This development towards European counterterrorism arrangements was undoubtedly event-driven and periods of inertia and confusion alternated with moments of significant organizational breakthroughs. The 2005 London attacks contributed to a major shift of emphasis in European counterterrorism thinking. Instead of an external threat, terrorism now became a home-grown phenomenon. The London bombings firmly anchored deradicalization at the heart of EU counterterrorism endeavours.