EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy

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In 2005, the Council of the EU adopted the EU counter-terrorism strategy to fight terrorism globally and make Europe safer.

The strategy focuses on four pillars:

  • prevent
  • protect
  • pursue
  • respond

Across these pillars, the strategy recognises the importance of cooperation with third countries and international institutions.


Addressing the causes of radicalisation and terrorist recruitment is a key priority for the EU. To this end, the Council adopted an EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism in 2008.

The strategy was revised in June 2014 in light of evolving trends, such as lone-actor terrorism, foreign fighters, and the use of social media by terrorists.

In December 2014, the Council adopted guidelines for the implementation of the revised strategy by member states.


Protecting citizens and infrastructure and reducing vulnerability to attacks is the second priority of the EU counter-terrorism strategy.

This includes securing external borders, improving transport security, protecting strategic targets and reducing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure.

In this area, the EU adopted a directive regulating the use of passenger name record (PNR) data in April 2016. Member states will have to comply with the new rules within two years. 


The EU is working to hinder terrorists’ capacity to plan and organise, and to bring these terrorists to justice.

To achieve these goals, the EU has focused on:

  • strengthening national capabilities
  • improving cooperation and information exchange between police and judicial authorities
  • tackling terrorist financing
  • depriving terrorists of their means of support and communication

In May 2015, the Council and the European Parliament adopted new rules to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.


Preparing, managing and minimising the consequences of a terrorist attack is the fourth objective of the EU counter-terrorism strategy.

This is done by improving capabilities to deal with the aftermath, the coordination of the response, and victims’ needs.

Priorities in this area include:

  • developing EU crisis coordination arrangements
  • revising the civil protection mechanism
  • developing risk assessment tools
  • sharing best practices on assistance to victims of terrorism

Priorities in recent years have included:

  • defining the arrangements for the implementation by the EU of the solidarity clause, through a Council decision adopted in June 2014
  • reviewing the EU emergency and crisis coordination arrangements, replaced by the EU integrated political crisis response arrangements (IPCR) in June 2013
  • revising EU civil protection legislation at the end of 2013

Engagement with international partners

The EU counter-terrorism strategy needs to operate on a global scale. Indeed, the EU’s security is closely linked with the situation in other countries, particularly in neighbouring states.

In June 2014, the European Council called for an effective counter-terrorism policy integrating the internal and external aspects. In February 2015, EU leaders stressed the need for the EU to engage more with third countries on security issues and counter-terrorism.

 The counter-terrorism agenda is present in the relations between the EU and third countries in many forms, including:

  • high-level political dialogues
  • the adoption of cooperation clauses and agreements, or specific assistance
  • capacity-building projects with strategic countries

The EU cooperates on counter-terrorism with countries in:

  • the Western Balkans
  • Africa (the Sahel, North Africa, the Horn of Africa)
  • the Middle East
  • North America
  • Asia

Cooperation with the US is a fundamental component of the EU’s strategy. In recent years, cooperation agreements have been reached in areas such as terrorism financing, transport and borders, mutual legal assistance and extradition. US authorities are working more and more closely with Europol and Eurojust.

The EU also works closely with other international and regional organisations to build international consensus and promote international standards for fighting terrorism.

The EU works with the UN and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, as well as with regional organisations such as the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the League of Arab States and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, among others.

As part of its cooperation with the UN, and following a number of UN Security Council resolutions, the EU has adopted restrictive measures against persons or entities associated with the Al-Qaeda network.

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