Press releases

The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad: finding opportunities, overcoming constraints

27 September 2010

Brussels, 27 September 2010: The anniversary of 9/11 has once again raised public interest in reducing terrorist threats, while the gentle beginnings of the European External Action Service make this a pertinent time to assess the EU’s record in fighting terrorism abroad. This new EPC Issue Paper: The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad: finding opportunities, overcoming constraints by Peter Wennerholm, Erik Brattberg and Mark Rhinard of The Swedish Institute of International Affairs, assesses the efficacy of EU tools to do so, and suggests how they could be improved in a post-Lisbon institutional set-up.

The study tracks the use and efficacy of the EU’s resources in five countries which are a potential breeding ground for terrorists: Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan and Indonesia. It reveals four common weaknesses: third countries’ receptiveness to EU support, EU Member States’ (un)willingness to cooperate, the lack of coordination between EU institutions and delegations, and the international community’s inability to meld its activities.

Mark Rhinard, one of the report’s authors said about the findings: “We need to take stock of the EU’s effectiveness in fighting terrorism, and in general playing a more constructive role on the world stage. With the institutional environment of EU external policy-making in flux, the time is ripe to implement reforms and meaningful changes before new EU roles are defined and policies put in place.” 

Building security at home and abroad

The paper outlines the major steps that the three key actors need to take to prevent the growth of terrorist activities or groups in instable countries:

National governments: Take other EU Member States’ priorities into account when setting international counter-terrorism assistance. Develop shared metrics for evaluating ‘success’ in third countries and give EU institutions a bigger role in identifying gaps and overlaps.

EU institutions: Improve monitoring of EU governments’ counter-terrorism efforts and encourage them to share ‘best practice’. Clarify the High Representative/Vice President’s role and strengthen EU delegations in the field’s counter-terrorist activity. Boost the Council’s Working Party on the International Aspects of Terrorism.

Cooperation with the international community: Prioritise regional coordination. Work closely with assistance target countries to improve their ‘absorption capacity’. Focus more on UN Resolution 1373, the global framework for counter-terrorism, and work closely with the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.

This publication is the result of cooperation between the EPC and The Swedish Institute for International Affairs.

To discuss the findings and implications of the report, contact: Mark Rhinard on:


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