Less terrorism, but threat remains serious - Europol

“Nearly 10 years after the 9-11 attacks, terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to the EU and its citizens,” Europol /director Rob Wainwright told MEPs 19 April. He underlined the connection between terror, organised crime and drug trafficking, and the growing use of the internet as a recruiting tool. But he noted that a number of attacks were prevented in 2010, and that more individuals planning terrorism were arrested.

Mr Wainwright was in Parliament to present the latest “EU Terrorism and Situation Report”. He drew a picture of the terrorist threat in Europe as a mosaic, with separatism as well as Islamism and anarchist terrorism behind the majority of the 249 attacks registered in the EU in 2010, in which seven people died and many others were injured. Two attacks in Sweden and one in Denmark were attributed to Islamist terrorist groups, and were aimed at “causing mass casualties”.

Although the numbers and threat remain high, “in overall terms the number of attacks in the EU represents a decrease on the figure for 2009, due largely to a significant decrease in the number of attacks attributed to ETA”, he said.

Financing

Mr Wainwright warned that terrorist groups are becoming more diverse and flexible, and there are signs of increased international collaboration between groups and growing links between organised crime and terrorism.

“Separatist terrorist groups such as the PKK and LTTE are involved in the trafficking of drugs and human beings to raise funds for their terrorism activities,” he said. Contact and collaboration are also reported between “ETA in Spain and FARC in Colombia”, “international drug trafficking groups and Islamist terrorist groups in West Africa” and “violent left-wing groups in Italy, Greece and Spain”.

Spanish EPP member Agustín Díaz de Mera said it is vital “not to underestimate the threat…international cooperation is of the utmost importance”, while Portuguese Socialist Ana Gomes asked if offshore havens will be controlled “so that they won’t be an instrument” used by criminal groups for such international cooperation.

Internet

Mr Wainwright also underlined the increasing role of the Internet: It “is developing into a critical facilitator” for terrorist groups, who are “demonstrating increased professionalism in using web-based technologies” as propaganda and recruiting tools. Right wing extremist groups are also “becoming very active on the Internet and social networks.”

Instability in North Africa

“The current and future flow of immigrants originating from North Africa could have an influence on the EU’s security situation,” according to Europol.

Maltese EPP member Simon Busuttil and British Conservative Timothy Kirkhope asked whether there was any evidence about how the risk is increasing for Europe. “The activities of Islamist groups in the EU are certainly affected by the international situation,” Mr Wainwright said. The current situation “at least provides opportunities to organised crime groups.”

“A Europol operational team has been deployed to Lampedusa and mainland Italy,” which have faced a huge influx of refugees, where it works with EU border agency Frontex and the Italian authorities.

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