On 22 October 2015, in the name of the EU, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union co-signed the Council of Europe's Convention for the Prevention of Terrorism, and the additional protocol thereto, designed to address the problem of 'foreign terrorist fighters'.
Adopted in 2005, the Convention for the Prevention of Terrorism seeks to increase the effectiveness of existing international instruments for combating terrorism. In order to enhance Member States' efforts to prevent terrorism, this instrument makes provision for the criminalisation of certain actions likely to result in the commission of acts of terrorism, notably public incitement and recruitment and the provision of training for terrorism. There are also plans to develop cooperation in the sphere of prevention, both nationally and internationally. The Convention includes a provision on the protection and compensation of victims of terrorism, as well as provisions safeguarding human rights and the principles of the rule of law in the fight against terrorism.
The additional protocol, which was co-signed in the name of the EU by Félix Braz, Minister for Justice, on the same day it opened for signature, seeks to promote the implementation, throughout Europe, of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 of 24 September 2014, intended to combat the phenomenon of foreign fighters. It makes various acts criminal offences, including intentional participation in a terrorist group, receiving terrorist training, travelling abroad for the purposes of terrorism and financing or organising such travel.The aim of the protocol is to harmonise legislation in Europe, in order to facilitate cooperation between Member States. The protocol also puts in place a network of national contact points available 24 hours a day, enabling information to be exchanged rapidly.
To mark the occasion, an international conference on foreign fighters was held on the same day in Riga.
'We must take steps to prevent violent extremism and to strengthen the resilience of our societies to any extremism, while respecting our fundamental freedoms', said Félix Braz in his opening address.
'The European Union supports the Council of Europe in its work'
The emergence of new forms of terrorist threats arising from foreign fighters, some of whom, if they do not die in a conflict which is very often not their own, return to their countries of origin where they represent a potential danger which is difficult to evaluate, makes it necessary to take 'concerted action against terrorism in Europe and throughout the world, and this can be achieved by implementing international legal provisions, such as UN Resolution 2178', stressed the Minister.
Félix Braz pointed out that the additional protocol had been drafted 'in record time' in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and had been formally adopted by the foreign affairs ministers of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe at their ministerial session held in May 2015.
'The European Union supports the Council of Europe in its work, which sets legal rules in order to make a number of acts punishable by law', said Félix Braz. In his view, 'by criminalising these acts, the Council of Europe is placing action by its Member States within the remit of the rule of law'.
'We apply the fundamental values and human rights which are at the heart of Europe: democracy, freedom, solidarity, pluralism, tolerance and human dignity', stressed Félix Braz.
Félix Braz also pointed out that, at their informal meeting on 30 January 2015, EU ministers for justice and home affairs had agreed that a uniform definition of foreign fighters was needed, as well as of terrorism in terms of criminal offences in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2178. In their statement of 12 February 2015, the Heads of State and of Government said that it was necessary to 'implement and further develop the tools we have', also noting that 'preventing radicalisation is a key element of the fight against terrorism'.
'The additional protocol signed today pursues the same aims', stressed the Minister.
Félix Braz emphasised Article 7 of the additional protocol, on the exchange of information concerning persons travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism, as such exchanges are delayed or are sometimes received too late. 'This exchange of information and intelligence, combined with better cooperation with the tools we already have, is one of the keys to success', stated the Minister.
'We must take steps to prevent violent extremism and to strengthen the resilience of our societies to any extremism, while respecting our fundamental freedoms', declared Félix Braz.
He believes it is therefore important to 'fight to prevent propaganda on social networks intended to recruit young people'. On this point, he said, the EU's ministers for justice had decided on 9 October 2015 to put in place intensified dialogue with the major Internet operators in the context of the prevention of terrorism, as well as protection of fundamental rights and combating online hate speech and hate crimes. 'Anti-Semitism and incitement to anti-Muslim hatred online must be combated!', the Minister said, as he had done at the colloquium on fundamental rights. The subject will be on the agenda of the 'Justice and Home Affairs' Council to be scheduled for 3 December.
As he had done some days earlier, at a conference on radicalisation, particularly in prisons, the Minister reiterated his message, namely that repression can only be part of the response to the global challenge that radicalisation represents.
'It is only by working together, hand in hand, and respecting human rights, that we will be able to address these problems', the Minister concluded, hoping that the conference would help the EU, the Council of Europe and their Member States to cooperate and assist one another in an approach seeking to 'guarantee security, while respecting the thing that is dearest to us and which forms the foundation of our societies, namely, human rights!'.