The European Union is spending too little on fighting terrorism at a time when its transport network is insufficiently protected, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator said.
Gilles de Kerchove urged the 27-member bloc to increase development aid to areas where militant groups are known to operate such as Yemen, Pakistan or sub-Saharan Africa, and to spend more on helping their governments to tackle militancy.
“There needs to be a step-change in the amount which the EU devotes to counter-terrorism assistance,” Kerchove said in a written presentation to EU interior or home affairs ministers, which they were to debate Thursday, Reuters reports.
“If the EU is to be a serious actor in promoting global stability … it needs to put proper resources behind this.”
At a meeting in Brussels, ministers were also due to discuss ways of increasing air cargo security after bombs were found on U.S.-bound planes in October, as well as the sharing of passenger data with Washington in pursuit of suspects. The bombs, as well as a recent spate of arrests of people suspected of planning Islamist attacks in Europe and travel warnings in the EU, have highlighted growing security concerns.
In his presentation, Kerchove said aviation remained a high priority target for Islamist militants, and that Europe’s land transport networks were inadequately protected from attack.
“We need to further analyse gaps in the protection of major components of land transport infrastructure,” he said. “There is an obvious risk that, as aviation becomes increasingly secure, terrorists might switch to targeting land transport.”
At the same time, he said, the bloc needed a comprehensive strategy to address the phenomenon of Europeans travelling to remote war zones to attend militant training camps. Such concerns were behind a U.S. travel warning for Europe in October, triggered by intelligence on a plot against European targets reportedly originating with a group based in mountainous northern Pakistan. Some of the group were believed to be European citizens.
“The majority of plots detected over the last few years have involved such ‘foreign fighters’,” Kerchove said.
A new EU strategy should include assistance to third countries in areas such as document security, as well as establishing EU capability to monitor passenger travel data. Kerchove also urged the bloc to consider making participation in militant training camps a criminal offence.