ISIL is a major security threat to the EU and its member states, as well as to the region. While the primary obligation of dealing with this threat lies with the member states, the EU can and should play a supporting and active role. The European Council realised that the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a major threat to European security and that committed action to stem the flow of foreign fighters from Europe who join ISIL in Iraq and Syria is required. The European Council, accordingly, called for an accelerated implementation of a package of actions, agreed upon by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June 2013 upon the recommendation of the EU Counter-Coordinator.
These steps fall under 4 priority areas: prevention of radicalisation, surveillance of suspicious travel, examination and prosecution and cooperation with third countries. Prevention of radicalisation Several endeavours have been taken both at member states and the EU level with a specific emphasis on the early detection of radicalisation and methods to prevent potential foreign fighters from employing in terrorist activities.
In this concern, the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network gave a declaration on good procedures for engagement with foreign fighters or their environments. Uplifted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Commission decided to give a significant amount of money to help member states, upon their recommendation, to develop tailored strategic communication notes to counter ISIL’s constant calls via the Internet and social media to European citizens and citizens to join their ranks.
The European Commission has set up a forum with essential players in the industry to discuss and explore mutually satisfactory ways to cooperate to handle the challenge posed by the use of the Internet by terrorist organisations, as presented in its Communication “Preventing Radicalisation To Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Bolstering the EU’s response”.
Some of the member states impacted by the foreign fighters phenomenon have set up specific instruments to deal with returnees and to decide on a case-by-case foundation on which kind of intervention and aid is most appropriate. Detection of dubious travel One of the tools used to detect suspicious travel activities of known individuals is the benefit of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) and Interpol’s system of international information and diffusions. A significant increase in the usefulness of SIS II has been noted since the matter was first discussed in the EU context in 2013. For the detection of unidentified individuals, better exploitation of passenger data (EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) and Advance Passenger Information (API)) is required.
Detection of travel, yet, does not depend on practical information exchange mechanisms alone. To that end, several member states have already revised or are in the process of updating their legal frameworks to be in a better position to investigate and prosecute foreign fighters either before avoidance or upon the retrieval of foreign fighters. Occasions of judicial and prosecution authorities in the member states are being swapped with Eurojust.
Several avenues for collaboration have already been identified in the governments neighbouring Iraq and Syria. These are presently being discussed so that they can be prioritised and provided through projects under different financial mechanisms. Meanwhile, the problem of foreign fighters has been and is being extended in all appropriate political connections, as well as in counter-terrorism political discussions with third countries. Frequent exchanges take place between some US government departments and mechanisms and their counterparts in the member states and the EU.
Collaboration on foreign fighters also takes place within existing international forums such as the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, in special the Dutch-Moroccan-led Working Group on Foreign Fighters. Collaboration with key countries within the framework of EU mechanisms such as Frontex, Eurojust and Europol was also strengthened.