Stronger EU rules to prevent terrorism - more rights for victims

On 7 March 2017 EU ministers have approved a set of new measures which will update and extend the tools available to Member States to respond to the evolving threat of terrorism.

The new Directive will enable law enforcement and judicial authorities in the EU to be better-equipped to act to prevent and prosecute individuals planning terrorist activities. In doing so, the EU is providing authorities with a new set of preventative tools needed to adapt to the changing nature of terrorism. The new rules criminalise a series of acts across the EU, such as undertaking terrorist training or travelling for terrorist purposes, as well as organising or facilitating such travel.

Commenting on the new Directive, the Maltese Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici, stated: “With this agreement, the EU is now better-equipped to meet the challenge of the evolving terrorist threat. Terrorism knows no borders, but the message is now clear: foreign fighters, whether they travel to, from or within the EU, will be stopped. But security without the respect for fundamental rights is unacceptable. That is why the new rules also strengthen victims’ rights and include safeguards to individual freedoms.”

The new rules, which strengthen and widen the scope of existing legislation, criminalise:

  • Travelling within, outside or to the EU for terrorist purposes, e.g. to join the activities of a terrorist group or with the purpose of committing a terrorist attack.  

  • The organisation and facilitation of such travel, including through logistical and material support, such as the purchase of tickets or planning itineraries;

  • Training and being trained for terrorist purposes, e.g. in the making or use of explosives, firearms, noxious or hazardous substances mirroring the existing provision of knowingly providing such training;

  • Providing or collecting funds with the intention or the knowledge that they are to be used to commit terrorist offences and offences related to terrorist groups or terrorist activities. 

The Directive also bolsters existing legislation on the rights of victims of terrorism. It includes a catalogue of services to meet the specific needs of victims of terrorism, such as the right to receive immediate access to professional support services providing medical and psycho-social treatments, or to receive legal or practical advice, as well as assistance with compensation claims.

Improving security in the EU is one of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU’s six flagship priorities. In just two months, the Presidency has accomplished a lot in this respect, including just in the last week. In this respect, today, Ministers also reached a parallel agreement to improve checks at the EU’s external borders, while on 2 March, the Maltese Presidency secured a mandate to open negotiations with the European Parliament for a new Entry-Exit System to better-record the presence of third-country national in the EU.

The new Directive strengthening rules to prevent terrorism will soon be signed by the Maltese Presidency on behalf of the Council of the EU, together with the European Parliament. It will then be published in the EU Official Journal and will enter into force 20 days later.