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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

EU tightens rules to prevent terrorist attacks by returning fighters

The European Union is set to approve new rules to restrict the sale of chemicals used to make homemade explosives

People hug on the street near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal attacks in Paris, France, in November 2015. Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall killing dozens of people. Reuters
People hug on the street near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal attacks in Paris, France, in November 2015. Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall killing dozens of people. Reuters

The European Union is tightening its regulations in a bid to thwart attacks on home turf as hundreds of fighters return from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

Plans to update and tighten rules on the sale of chemicals used to make homemade explosives were informally agreed with Council negotiators and are now slated to be formally approved by Parliament and Council before entering into force.

Chemicals regularly sold in Europe have been found in 40 per cent of homemade explosives used in terrorist attacks, the EU said in a press release.

A spokesperson for the European Parliament confirmed the move is part of the European Agenda for Security, which aims to respond to evolving terrorism tactics.

Rapporteur Andrejs Mamikins said that “stronger regulation of marketing and use of explosives precursors are essential steps in making Europe a safer place.”

“The new rules ensure clearer definitions, stricter control measures and better information-sharing along the supply chain,” he said.

The extended list of banned substances will include sulphuric acid, which is used to produce TATP – the explosive used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, the Brussels attack in 2016 and the Manchester attack in 2017.

Members of the general public will only be able to purchase the chemicals if in possession of special licencing. This reverses 2013 regulation by which these chemicals could be bought simply by showing an ID card.

Online marketplaces are equally covered by the rules on sale and on reporting of suspicious transactions.

“Preventing bomb-making, illicit trade in explosives – including on the 'dark web' – as well as harmonisation of marketing in the EU, were our priorities in the negotiations,” Mr Mamikins said.

The new rules will come into effect 18 months after their publication. Issued licences will remain valid 12 months after the application of the new rules.

The decision follows a 2017 European Commission appraisal that found that the current regulation “does not guarantee a sufficient level of protection of the safety of the general public”.

By setting restrictions and controls, the EU is now seeking to establish a common frame that makes it harder for terrorists to enter in possession of the required substances across Europe.

Most of the substances listed as "explosive precursors", however, have legitimate industrial uses and the restrictions will not apply to professionals who need to use these chemicals in connection to their trade or profession.

The move is part of the European Agenda for Security, which replaced the previous Internal Security Strategy that ran between 2010 and 2014.

Under the same framework, the EU approved new rules in December last year aimed at preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The new provisions oblige hosting service providers to remove extremist content identified by a national supervisory body within one hour from its notification.

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), formally adopted in the autumn of 2018, also sought to tighten rules, this time with regards to nationals from non-EU countries that don’t need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone.

ETIAS – an electronic system that allows and keeps track of visitors and operates a detailed security check prior to their entry – is set to become a data gathering system that will substantially decrease security concerns for the EU.

Updated: February 20, 2019 06:23 PM

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