European police agency Europol launched the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) at a January 25 2016 informal meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Amsterdam.
According to its official billing, the ECTC will address issues like foreign fighters and share information regarding terrorist financing, online propaganda and arms trafficking.
Europe is facing its most serious terrorist threat in 10 years. Combined with the growing number of foreign fighters, this is a new challenge for EU member states, a media statement on the launch said.
Speaking at the launch, Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said that EU institutions had responded swiftly and strongly to the terrorist attacks of 2015 and had moved to augment the EU’s capacity to deal with the terrorist threat.
“As foreseen in the European Agenda on Security put forward by the European Commission, the establishment of the European Counter Terrorism Centre is a major strategic opportunity for the EU to make our collective efforts to fight terrorism more effective,” Avramopoulos said.
“I call on EU member states to trust and support the European Counter Terrorism Centre to help it succeed in its important mission,” he said.
The launch of the ECTC as of January 2016 followed a decision by EU justice and home affairs ministers in November 2015.
ECTC will be an enhanced central information hub by which the member states can increase information sharing and operational co-ordination, the statement said.
“The ECTC will improve the exchange of information between law enforcement agencies. This is the kind of co-operation Europe needs in the fight against organised crime and terrorism,” said Ard van der Steur, Minister of Security and Justice of the Netherlands, currently holding the presidency of the Council of the EU.
The ECTC, which is part of the Europol organisation, will be led by Spain’s Manuel Navarrete Paniagua. He currently has a staff of 39, plus five seconded experts. They will work with other operational centres within Europol.
“Our ambition is for the European Counter Terrorism Centre to become a central information hub in the fight against terrorism in the EU, providing analysis for ongoing investigations and contributing to a coordinated reaction in the event of major terrorist attacks. Europol is grateful for the support of the member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission in the establishment of the ECTC. It will lie at the heart of a stronger EU standing up to the threat of terrorism,” Europol director Rob Wainwright said.
Europol said that it would provide the member states, and its key partners like Interpol and Eurojust, with new possibilities to ensure the most effective management of counter terrorism intelligence, including upgraded information exchange for sensitive counter terrorism intelligence, and the possibility to second experts to the ECTC to support enhanced cross-border investigations, capable of providing quick and comprehensive response to major terrorist incidents in the EU.
(Main photo: Europol)