The Hague, 05 June 2014
The phenomenon of foreign fighters returning from Syria and posing serious threats on European soil was discussed by leading counter-terrorism prosecutors at the Eurojust meeting held in The Hague on 5 June.
The meeting attracted a wide range of experts from across Europe, national correspondents of the network of counter-terrorism experts of the European Union and the Office of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, and experts from Norway, the Western Balkans, Turkey, the USA and Europol.
This meeting is the second one held by Eurojust on the topic of returning foreign fighters in the space of one year: the first meeting was held in June 2013. Recent case examples and emerging trends were discussed during the meeting, including the heavy use of social media for radicalisation and recruitment, the high level of organisation exhibited by jihadist groups, and the escalation in the number of returning jihadists in many Member States since 2013. For these reasons, judicial coordination is more important than ever.
Participants acknowledged the need for a coordinated and structured approach in the fight against this form of terrorism to counteract the sophisticated recruiting, facilitating and financing networks. Eurojust has confirmed its commitment to supporting the national authorities of the Member States and third States with its experience and expertise. Eurojust’s role in the collection and analysis of judicial experience can have a positive effect on the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases. Follow-up actions, including the sharing of experience and information on ongoing investigations, prosecutions and cooperation with third States, will prove vital. Eurojust will continue to be active in fostering cooperation and coordination in the prevention and fight against terrorism, building up case law and ensuring the exchange of best practice and lessons learned.
The significance and timing of today’s meeting is lent considerable weight by the killing of three persons in May at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. The attack is suspected of being carried out by a French citizen who returned from Syria in 2013. This case illustrates that, due to the mobility of these foreign fighters, returning jihadism is not a local or a national problem. The phenomenon crosses borders and affects many countries.
Following the experts meeting, Ms Michèle Coninsx, President of Eurojust and Chair of its Counter-Terrorism Team, said: ‘Meetings such as this one provide an unparalleled platform to discuss methods of preventing foreign fighters using their experience and combat skills upon their return to Europe, and how to stem the flow of those intending to join the conflict. Several concerned Member States have taken remarkable measures at national level and shown a real commitment to tackling this problem. Other Member States not affected so far, but which might be affected in the future, shall be led by those examples. We must continue and step up awareness and coordination among criminal justice authorities within the European Union and with our non-EU partners. Eurojust brings the authorities together; we stand ready to provide crucial support and advice and to coordinate operations internationally. The opportunities afforded by this timely meeting cannot be missed.’
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