After a number of attacks in multiple member states of the EU over the past three years, terrorism is now perceived as an enduring reality for EU citizens. In 2017, 16 significant attacks took place in the EU, against eight member states. This was a reminder that a Europe that protects our citizens requires cooperation among member states. Indeed, fighting terrorism is a key issue in the 2019 EU Parliamentary elections.
Already, there are many efforts to strengthen European counterterrorism. European countries have poured money into counterterrorism and improved intelligence-sharing. In her research on the history of terrorism in Europe, Beatrice de Graaf argues that European collaboration is older than we’ve thus far thought. She notes that after Napoleon was defeated in 1815 and after 25 years of war, the European population demanded peace and security; the European Defence Community (a precursor of NATO) was founded, using new instruments such as passports, optical telegraphs, joint border controls and the rapid spread of reports on fugitive “terrorists” and “assassins”.
Already in 2017, many more attacks failed or were foiled than in 2016. About 2018, the head of Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre has said: “The attacks are less sophisticated, there are more, but fortunately they produce less victims.” Although in the upcoming elections, fighting terrorism will be a key issue, as soon as attacks become less numerous, the legitimacy of new measures will be questioned. Any new strategy has to balance the need for security and the respect of fundamental rights, such as privacy.