In Europe, the feeling of insecurity that terrorists try to create must be of the greatest concern to us because it has the potential to undermine the cohesion of our societies. Increasing polarisation and the rise of extremist views is a concern for EU Member States. The public debate about sensitive phenomena like terrorism, therefore, must be based on facts before reaching conclusions. EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) has provided verified facts on terrorism in Europe since 2006. The report has been accepted as a benchmark in discussions about EU counterterrorism policies and academic studies. It is my privilege to hereby hand over the 2019 edition of the TE-SAT to the public.
In 2018, terrorism continued to constitute a major threat to security in EU Member States. Horrific attacks perpetrated by jihadists like those in Trèbes, Paris, Liège and Strasbourg killed a total of thirteen people and injured many more. In addition, one terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist in Italy and numerous arrests of suspected right-wing terrorists for attack-planning across the European Union indicate that extremists of diverging orientation increasingly consider violence as a justified means of confrontation. Terrorists not only aim to kill and maim but also to divide our societies and spread hatred. We need to remain vigilant if we are to protect our citizens and values in the face of attempts to use violence for political aims.
Compared to the year before, the number of attacks and the number of victims in the EU dropped significantly with regard to terrorism of all ideological tendencies. Whereas in 2017 jihadists perpetrated ten terrorist attacks in the EU, we suffered seven jihadist terrorist attacks last year. At the same time, however, the number of disrupted jihadist terrorist plots increased substantially. The latter included attempts to produce and deploy chemical and biological substances, a fact which illustrates the level of intent and commitment of individuals, cells and networks to use terrorist tactics to harm the societies they live in.
The level of the threat from terrorism, thus, has not diminished, despite the military defeat of IS earlier this year. If anything, the situation has become more complex. Within the jihadist milieu, multiple actors of diverging motivation and allegiance are plotting alone or conspiring with others; and right-wing extremists, in a bid to justify violence, prey on the perception of a threat from Islam, which some people readily fuel by interpreting terrorist propaganda and criminal behaviour as representative of a world religion.
Unfortunately, in a growing number of locations outside Europe, violence has become prevalent. In countries like Syria, Libya, Mali, Afghanistan, among others, terrorist groups have gained influence to an extent that they rival the state, whose authority in many cases has already been undermined by particularistic policies, weak structures and corruption. Citizens of these countries are exposed to existential threats to their lives and property based on their belonging to particular communities or adhering to particular practices or beliefs. The perpetuation of these crises has proven to have an impact on Europe, be it through the creation of new grievances or prejudice among different communities in Europe, discrediting international efforts at crisis resolution through diplomacy or providing space for destructive ideologies and terrorist networks to prosper.
As the line between online and offline communities becomes increasingly blurred, terrorist propaganda preying on human suffering abroad reaches audiences in Europe to unprecedented extents, inciting some to act and driving others to embrace extremist views on the opposite end.
Source: Catherine De Bolle – Executive Director of Europol
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