How the Paris Attacks Are Driving EU Counterterrorism Cooperation

How the Paris Attacks Are Driving EU Counterterrorism Cooperation
A Belgian security officer stands guard near the Palace of Justice, where suspects wanted in Belgium on terrorism-related charges are set to appear before the federal court, Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Following the attack on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, European leaders have called for more sharing of data and intelligence on national security and counterterrorism among European Union member states. As it stands currently, people and goods can travel freely within the EU but data about travelers cannot. Efforts to share information about air travelers in Europe have been repeatedly blocked by the European Parliament on the grounds that any such data-sharing system would violate Europeans’ right to privacy.

“Cooperation between EU member states is a very important dimension of European counterterrorism policies,” explains Benoît Gomis, an international security analyst based in Vancouver, in an email interview. “Information-sharing has been a point of contention for many countries across the EU,” he adds. But “given the re-emergence of the foreign fighters issue,” with as many as 5,000 EU nationals joining jihadi groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, “EU member states will be perhaps more willing to share data more widely.” Indeed, at a meeting in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to expand intelligence cooperation.

That meeting was held days after Belgian police conducted a raid on a homegrown terrorist cell that was reportedly planning an imminent attack. Irish and German police have also made similar terrorism-related arrests in recent days.

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