Europol has published its 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend report, which shows that the threat of terrorist incidents remains high throughout Europe.
The report indicates that despite a number of victories over the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) extremist group over the past year, and the reclaiming of territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat of terrorist incidents in Europe has not declined at a commensurate rate over the past year.
In fact, while the number of victims of terrorism decreased in 2017, the number of terror attacks more than doubled from 13 in 2016 to 33 in 2017. These attacks injured 844 and resulted in the deaths of 68 people. In total, nine member states reported a total of 205 terrorist attacks, including those that failed or were foiled by law enforcement authorities.
How will Europe combat these terror attacks?
According to the report, Europe is already providing a strong counter to terrorist efforts. Some 975 individuals were arrested over the course of 2017 for terrorism-related offences, or suspicion of participating in the activities of a terrorist group, indicating that intelligence efforts and co-operation among member states have strengthened defence efforts.
The report also categorises the threat of terrorist incidents by a variety of factors, and suggests some trends which could help European authorities to target their efforts effectively. For example, recent terror attacks have been less sophisticated in their preparation, and shown a preference for attacking people, symbols of authority and symbols of Western lifestyle rather than other targets.
How have stakeholders responded?
Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol, emphasised that the information in the report has a real, tangible impact on the lives of Europeans, and that the growing number of terrorist attacks demands a proportionate response: “The numbers in this report are not just statistics. We must never forget that behind every number, there is an innocent victim. It therefore goes without saying that supporting member states to combat terrorism will remain a top priority for Europol. To fight terrorism, it is essential to have optimal information exchange and accurate data.”
Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, suggested that the EU’s pursuit of a Security Union would strengthen the bloc’s ability to mount collective defence efforts, and intelligence sharing that could dismantle terror networks.
He said: “Last year, while jihadist-inspired attacks increased, so did our preventive actions – with at least 11 attacks foiled. This is the strongest testament to the necessity of working together to defeat terrorism… A genuine and effective Security Union in Europe is the surest way to tighten the screws on terrorists until they no longer have space to commit their atrocities.”