EU nationals being radicalised and travelling to fight in Iraq or Syria represent a growing threat. Most of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists, and some of them proved to be returning “foreign fighters”. The civil liberties committee voted this week on a new directive on combatting terrorism. The text, drafted in the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, proposes the criminalisation of preparatory acts such as travelling for terrorist purposes.
It is hoped the new directive will be a valuable tool in tackling the phenomenon of aspiring or returning foreign fighters and so-called “lone wolves”. An estimated 5,000 Europeans have joined conflicts in Iraq and Syria, with the majority of them originating in four EU countries, namely France, the UK, Germany and Belgium.
According to some reports, the average rate of returnees is about 20-30%. However should ISIS be defeated or weakened in the coming months, the EU could be confronted with increasing numbers of returnees according to a warning from Europol. The number of lone wolf terrorists is also increasing, and the tendency of individuals preparing or committing terrorist acts alone is making it more complicated for authorities to trace.
The text has been drafted by German EPP member Monika Hohlmeier. The preparatory acts to be criminalised include: travelling for terrorist purposes as going to Syria to fight for ISIS or to another member state in order to commit an atrocity; providing or receiving training as attending a training camp abroad or receiving online instructions at home; providing and collecting funds specifically to fund terrorism; praising terrorism including glorifying terrorists or their acts by sharing content online.
The plenary vote is scheduled for early 2017.