One month after the shocking attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, European heads of government are discussing measures to beef up the EU's internal security policy. But their tone stays a voluntary one, sticking to the line that 'more cooperation is needed'. Member states have been saying this for years, while half-heartedly implementing new European rules on anti-terrorism and showing little will to share their own intelligence.
At Tuesday's European Council meeting, one measure in particular is high on the agenda: the quick adoption of the Passenger Name Record data proposal (PNR). I am not against this proposal, but legal safeguards for citizens need to be made explicit and this is currently not the case. Member states must also simultaneously adopt the related set of data protection rules.
But the reality is harvesting more data is no silver bullet in the fight against terrorism. All the perpetrators of recent attacks - London, Madrid, Brussels, Paris - were known to the intelligence services before they committed their crimes. If Europe really wants to combat terrorism and radicalisation, then a new strategy is vital. A strategy that really forces member states to cooperate while at the same time respecting the fundamental rights of citizens.
Europe's government leaders and the EU institutions need to look ahead. Today's European summit is just a starting point. To prop up the fight against terrorism substantially, ALDE proposes the following five ambitious steps.
First, the Commission should present a proposal for the establishment of EuroIntel, a European platform for national intelligence services on which they can share and exchange information on terrorist threats. Member states should be obliged to share information related to serious crimes and terrorism. EuroIntel could be based on existing EU infrastructure for intelligence sharing, and its structure should mirror Europol. It also needs a sound legal fundament, including safeguards for citizens' rights and a clear definition of what "national security" entails.
Secondly, the EU has to boost existing bodies and instruments that deal with law enforcement. Member states should strike a deal on a new framework for Europol as soon as possible, so that we can strengthen police cooperation across Europe. Europol may also be helped with an additional European Counter-terrorism Centre on its premises. Right now it lacks the right tools and receives little information from member states.
Another building block for a sound internal security policy, is improving the legal framework at a European level. We support the Commission in its effort to boost the powers of the Eurojust agency. In this respect the erection of a European Public Prosecutor's Office must be speeded up - and the prosecutor could get a wider mandate that includes categories like terrorism.
You can't win a war without taking away fertile grounds for conflict and upheaval. This is why we need to target the root causes of terrorism and radicalisation. On a national level, prevention strategies are needed, addressing the wide range of underlying factors of radicalisation. From Brussels, the Commission has to launch a European strategy to counter terrorist propaganda, radical networks and online recruitment.
Finally, the roadmap we envisage includes external aspects, too. The sources of international terrorism fall within the scope of existing EU foreign policy. There are ample opportunities to cooperate with non-EU countries on counter-terrorism, especially with Turkey. But these strategies must always be in strict compliance with international human rights standards.
Not more but better intelligence. Not less but more Europe. Not only fighting, but also preventing. Addressing the terrorism threat is a long haul - but it is a route we must take.