ESP EUROPEAN STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS OBSERVATORY WORKING PAPER 4 | JANUARY 2014 Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism

Thomas Renard – 2 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014 – THOMAS RENARD is a senior research fellow at Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations, a Brussels-based think tank, and ESPO project leader at Egmont. – The purpose of the European Strategic Partnerships Observatory (ESPO) is to monitor the evolution and output of EU strategic partnerships – an increasingly important dimension of EU external action. It provides a unique source of data, analysis and debate on the EU’s relations with a selected range of key global and regional players across different policy domains.   ESPO is a joint initiative of FRIDE and the Egmont Institute and is kindly supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The ESPO website is kindly supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

Introduction 7
Assessing the threat 7
The EU’s strategic approach 9
The challenge of implementation 12
Partnering on counter-terrorism issues 14
Agreements to improve counter-terrorism security 14
Exchange of information and best practices 15
Cooperation and capacity-building in third countries 17
Countering terrorist financing 18
Strengthening the multilateral fabric 19
Assessing the partnerships 20
Conclusion 23
Appendix 24

Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
The European Union (EU) has identified terrorism as one of the key threats it faces in its
external and internal security strategies. After the major terrorist attacks that shook the US and
Europe, it crafted a strategy specifically for counter-terrorism, in which it identified key objectives
and how to pursue them. This paper focuses specifically on the EU’s cooperation with its strategic
partners on international counter-terrorism issues, such as countering terrorist financing
or capacity building in third countries. It shows that the EU remains largely a marginal player in
counter-terrorism. Yet, it is also an actor with growing capabilities and geographical scope, one
that is increasingly active at the bilateral and multilateral level. In this sense, this paper holds that
it is worth investigating further the EU’s cooperation with pivotal partners.
After reviewing the urgency of the terrorist threat, the paper looks into the EU as a counterterrorism
actor. Its strategic approach is studied, before analysing the complex coordination
mechanisms in place internally, at the European level, as well as externally, between the EU
and its partners. It is argued that the EU is a fledgling counter-terrorism actor, but that it holds
nonetheless potential to become a more effective player. The second part of the paper looks
into the EU’s cooperation with its partners in specific areas, with a view to assessing the general
effectiveness of these partnerships. The conclusion suggests that most of these partnerships
are still under-delivering, if not elusive.
Assessing the threat
Terrorism is a very old phenomenon that historians can trace back to ancient times.1 It has affected
many regions and societies to a variable extent. But at no point in history was international
terrorism as important as in the first decade of this millennium, following the attacks against
the US, on 11 September 2001. It is not so much the intensity of the threat that has changed,
since terrorism reached an unequalled peak in the 1980s,2 but rather its centrality to the course
of international relations. After 9/11, the fight against terrorism became the top priority of the
American administration overnight, and world leaders followed suit by expressing solidarity with
the US and fine-tuning their security discourse accordingly. The subsequent American ‘war on
terror’ brought together an improbable coalition of countries in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq.
The terrorist threat, which had traditionally been a domestic threat with a trans-border
dimension, acquired a global dimension with al-Qaeda, a group created by Osama bin Laden
in the late 1980s. This small terrorist organisation initiated a war against the ‘West’, from its
1 Blin, A., Chaliand, G. 2006. Histoire du Terrorisme: de l’Antiquité à Al-Qaïda (Paris: Bayard Jeunesse).
2 There are various databases on terrorist incidents, which vary quite significantly in their reports, due to difficulties in ‘measuring’ terrorism.
But the general trend seems to be one of ‘waves’ of attacks, with a peak in the 1980s. See: Country Reports on Terrorism (US State Department),
available online:; the Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RAND), available online: http://; or the Global Terrorism Database (University of Maryland), available online: http://
8 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
safe haven more than ten thousand kilometres away from Washington. A couple of years later, al-
Qaeda could count on the support of an increasing number of followers worldwide as well as several
autonomous franchises (e.g. in the Maghreb, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia). Nowadays, al-Qaeda has
further decentralised, while new fronts are still being opened, lately in Syria. Every new front attracts
new recruits, radicalised youth as well as experienced fighters and trainers, from many different parts
of the world. With al-Qaeda, contemporary terrorism has merged local grievances and objectives
with a global enterprise and label.
In Europe, the impact of this war on terror has been particularly significant. On the one hand, European
troops have been deployed in Afghanistan (and in Iraq), officially to remove al-Qaeda’s safe haven,
but in practice as a gesture of transatlantic solidarity. On the other hand, Europe was itself directly
struck by the attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005). The terrorist threat in Europe became
more acute than ever, and the official threat levels have remained high ever since.
But the worldwide obsession with terrorism seems to be waning – again. After entering the White
House, Barack Obama took a series of decisions with a view to reshaping the American approach
to counter-terrorism. He banned the words ‘war on terror’ from the official lexicon; he outlawed the
use of torture as a counter-terrorism practice; he tried, unsuccessfully, to close Guantanamo; he
supervised an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan; and he encouraged a more multilateral and
less military-driven approach to counter-terrorism, notably through the establishment of the Global
Counterterrorism Forum. At the same time, the US pursued its targeted operations, eliminating several
al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden in May 2011. But it has done so from a distance,
relying mostly on drones and Special Forces. The times of large-scale military operations are over.
The terrorist threat remains high and persistent on the American agenda, and the Boston marathon
drama in 2013 provided a reminder of the country’s vulnerability to attacks. But the fight against
international terrorism is now probably second to other concerns such as the economic crisis (and its
geopolitical implications), the rise of China and growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific – all of which are
seen as more destabilising and pressing to US security.
Overall, terrorist activities (approximated by measuring attacks and arrests) are in steady decline in
Europe, but the threat remains high.3 A total of 219 attacks in 2012 is a non-negligible number. These
attacks originate from a broad spectrum of terrorist groups – mostly ethno-separatist movements –
many of which operate across national borders, making it more difficult to monitor and mitigate them.
If international religiously-inspired groups have carried out very few attacks in the past years (six in
2012 and none in 2011), the threat is nonetheless considered to be serious and these groups to be
active, as indicated by the important number of related investigations and arrests. The radical Islamist
terrorist threat is evolving as well. The profile of violent activists is gradually changing, with an increase
in self-radicalised and lone-wolf terrorists. This complicates the counter-terrorism challenge since
these individuals are particularly difficult to spot early in the radicalisation process. It also requires
more monitoring of online activities, opening a whole new front in the cyber-world.4 The threat is
evolving in geographical terms as well. As Afghanistan loses its appeal for jihadi fighters, there is
a danger that some of them, and particularly European jihadists, might come back to Europe and
start plotting an attack. Afghanistan and Pakistan – known as the AfPak region – are already being
replaced by the Sahel region and Syria as the new hotbed for international terrorism, thereby moving
the core of the threat closer to Europe’s borders.
3 Europol. 2013. TE-SAT 2013 (The Hague: European Police Office).
4 On this issue, see the paper on cyber-security to be published in this series.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
Mirroring the trend in terrorist activities, the popular perception of terrorism as a major threat to Europe
is eroding. In all EU member states, citizens ranked terrorism as a major concern in the aftermath of
9/11. Their threat perception has evolved and terrorism is no longer the major preoccupation of citizens,
although it remains seen as an important security challenge.5
The challenge in Europe today is thus one of facing an evolving, multi-dimensional and multifaceted
threat while popular support is waning and other challenges are taking over attention
and resources. The end of the terrorism frenzy and the return to a certain normality is probably a
good thing, but a growing sense of ‘counter-terrorism fatigue’6 is not. European governments and
societies must learn the right lessons from the past decade and continue to develop more effective
means of cooperation, including at the European level, to reduce the risk and the impact of a future
terrorist attack. This is the reason why the EU should pursue its efforts on counter-terrorism, at the
regional and global levels.
The EU’s strategic approach
The EU is a nascent security actor in many dimensions, including the counter-terrorism one. By the
turn of the new millennium, certain institutions had been established, such as the TREVI platform in
the 1970s, which initiated police cooperation in Europe, or Europol, the EU agency, in the 1990s.
Certain measures were also taken, such as the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism
in the 1970s or the EU Convention on Extradition in the 1990s. However, the European appetite for
cooperation on counter-terrorism was meagre. It took a succession of shocking incidents, starting
in the US in 2001, and followed by attacks on European soil, to prompt more cooperation among
member states and eventually the birth of the EU as a counter-terrorism actor.
In the last decade, the EU has adopted a vast range of measures to cope with terrorist threats in
Europe and beyond. The EU Action Plan to Combat Terrorism, adopted in the aftermath of 9/11, has
been extended, updated and revised regularly since then. Following the Madrid bombings, it was
restructured around seven ‘strategic objectives’ in order to refine the purpose of the EU’s counterterrorism
policy. This process arguably culminated with the adoption of the EU Counter-Terrorism
Strategy (EU CT Strategy hereafter) in November 2005.
The EU CT Strategy observes that terrorism ‘poses a serious threat to our security, to the values
of our democratic societies and to the rights and freedoms of our citizens’.7 The 2003 European
Security Strategy (ESS) and the 2010 Internal Security Strategy (ISS) also emphasised that terrorism
was one of the major threats to Europe’s security. The EU CT Strategy is articulated around four
work strands: preventing people from turning to terrorism; protecting citizens and infrastructure;
pursuing and investigating terrorists across our borders and globally; and preparing to respond to
the consequences of a terrorist attack. These four strands are in line with most counter-terrorism
strategies developed elsewhere. In fact, they follow closely the UK’s strategy, elaborated in 2003 –
unsurprisingly, since the EU strategy was adopted during the UK rotating presidency of the EU.
5 Bures, O. 2011. EU Counterterrorism: A Paper Tiger? (Farnham: Ashgate), 39-45.
6 De Kerchove, G. 2009. ‘EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy – Discussion Paper’, Council of the EU, 15359/1/09, 26 November. Available online: http://
7 Council of the EU. 2005. The European Union Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Brussels, 30 November. Available online:
10 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
In addition to its CT Strategy, the EU adopted a Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment
to Terrorism in 2005,8 a shorter document deepening one of the four work strands identified in the CT
Strategy. It also adopted a Strategy on Terrorist Financing in 2004, which was later revised in 2008.9 In
2004, the Council of the EU adopted a concept paper on the CSDP dimension of European counterterrorism
efforts, that is, the civil-military contribution that can be made to the four strands of the EU
CT Strategy, including intelligence and military capabilities.10 This in principle allows the EU to resort
equally to law enforcement and military capabilities in the fight against international terrorism, although
in practice CSDP capabilities were almost never used with counter-terrorism intentions.11
The fundamental objective of counter-terrorism efforts is ‘to combat terrorism globally while respecting
human rights, and make Europe safer, allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and
justice’.12 The EU CT Strategy thus makes the connection between internal and external security,
acknowledging that security in Europe goes beyond EU borders. This principle underpins the EU’s
global role in counter-terrorism, and its cooperation with third countries. In a similar way to what is
happening in the field of non-proliferation, progress on the EU CT Strategy is reviewed every six months,
according to the principle of ‘democratic accountability’ present in the strategy.
The EU CT Strategy has been criticised – just like most EU strategic documents – for its lack of policy
guidance. According to Bossong, the document ‘did not live up to a stricter definition of strategy, which
would present a clear set of priorities and make corresponding resource commitments’.13 The EU CT
Strategy was in fact highly political, with a view to stressing the EU’s added value internally and externally
vis-à-vis member states and third parties – not least the US. This political-more-than-strategic
ambition is consistent with documents, such as the ESS or the WMD non-proliferation strategy.
Despite this real limitation, the EU CT Strategy offers a basic strategic framework, according to which
counter-terrorism efforts must take place at various levels. The national level continues largely to dominate
overall efforts. According to an EU official quoted in a previous study, the member states would be
responsible for more than 90 percent of European counter-terrorism policies.14 At the European level,
the document identifies four added values of the Union: strengthening national capabilities; facilitating
European cooperation; developing collective capability; and promoting international partnership.
The external dimension of EU counter-terrorism policies is precisely the main focus of this paper. It
is also arguably their weakest dimension because the EU has little sense of the overall purpose of its
counter-terrorism measures and how they relate to broader foreign policy objectives.15 Available funding
for external counter-terrorism policies is also very limited. For instance, the Instrument for Stability (IfS)
foresaw €10-14 million for the ‘support for prevention of and fight against terrorism’ in 2009-11, mostly
for capacity building in the Sahel and Pakistan. This amount remained similar for 2012-13.
8 Council of the EU. 2005. The European Union Strategy for Combating Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terrorism, 14781/1/05, 24 November.
Available online:
9 Council of the EU. 2008. Revised Strategy on Terrorist Financing, Brussels, 17 July. Available online:
10 Council of the EU. 2004. Conceptual Framework on the ESDP Dimension of the Fight against Terrorism. Available online: http://www.consilium.europa.
11 Martins, B. O., Ferreira-Pereira, L. C. 2012. ‘Stepping Inside ? CSDP Missions and EU Counter-Terrorism’, European Security, 21:4, 537-556.
12 Ibidem.
13 Bossong, R. 2008. ‘The Action Plan on combating Terrorism: A Flawed Instrument of EU Security Governance’, Journal of Common Market Studies,
46:1, p.41.
14 Renard, T. 2012. ‘EU Counterterrorism Policies and Institutions after the Lisbon Treaty’, Policy Brief (Washington: Center on Global Counterterrorism
Cooperation), September.
15 Keohane, D. 2008. ‘The Absent Friend: EU Foreign Policy and Counter-Terrorism,’ Journal of Common Market Studies, 46:1, 125–146; Renard, T. op. cit.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
The EU’s approach to counter-terrorism at the global level is multi-layered.16 It relies on multilateralism,
regionalism and bilateralism. At the multilateral level, the EU is committed to working within the UN
system. The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (UN CT Strategy) was adopted by the General
Assembly in September 2006. The EU has been active ever since to promote the UN CT Strategy,
along with UN conventions and protocols. The European Commission offers technical assistance to
third countries in their efforts to implement UN resolution 1373, which calls on UN member states to
strengthen their legal and institutional counter-terrorism capabilities. A significant initiative was the EUUN
joint project in Central Asia, which led to the adoption of an Action Plan by regional governments in
2011, and was complemented by measures to counter and combat radicalisation.17 In another instance
of good cooperation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Terrorism Prevention
Branch was tasked to implement an EU multi-million project in Southeast Asia. The EU and the UN
have established a regular political dialogue in 2011 to discuss their projects on counter-terrorism. But
the EU is also very active in many more multilateral organisations and informal forums. The EU was for
instance a founding member of the newly established Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), in which
it is the sole non-state actor, and where it co-chairs with Turkey the working group on the Horn of Africa.
Other relevant multilateral forums in which the EU has been active include the G8, with its Counter-
Terrorism Action Group (CTAG) and the Lyon-Roma Group, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or
the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
At the regional level, counter-terrorism meetings have taken place in the framework of the ASEAN
Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) or the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), among others. The counter-terrorism dimension is also present in
regional strategies, such as the Sahel Strategy or the Strategy on the Horn of Africa, for instance.18
The EU is also committed to strengthening regional capacities to deal with terrorism in all its forms. An
important European contribution was the funding (of about €600,000) of the African Centre for Study
and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), which is mandated to facilitate the implementation of the African
Union’s counter-terrorism framework.
At the bilateral level, the EU cooperates with a certain number of partners. The EU is committed to
‘mak[ing] counter-terrorism a high priority in dialogue with key partner countries, including the USA [emphasis
added]’.19 Yet, the EU CT Strategy did not clarify which these countries are precisely. The 2010
Stockholm Programme – the EU’s five-year work programme on internal security – repeated that it is
‘necessary to work with key strategic partners’ on counter-terrorism.20 But the Stockholm programme
is perhaps too comprehensive, by including almost every region of the world in its list of ‘key partners’.
In 2014, the EU has ten strategic partners, namely Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia,
South Africa, South Korea and the United States. This list may or may not be the most adequate for
the EU’s global counter-terrorism action, which is notably what this paper will investigate. Indeed, some
partners in this list may appear less useful to the EU’s counter-terrorism objectives than some other
countries absent from it, such as Turkey or Pakistan. The overall purpose of the EU’s strategic partnerships
is not always clear, but the objectives in terms of counter-terrorism appear relatively self-evident
from the EU’s documents and practice in this field. They include the willingness to conclude agree-
16 On the importance of the multi-layered approach, see the other papers published in this series.
17 De Kerchove, G. 2012. ‘Annual Report on the Implementation of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy’, Council of the EU, 16471/12, 23 November.
Available online:
18 EEAS. 2011. Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, European External Action Service. Available online:
africa/docs/sahel_strategy_en.pdf; Council of the EU. 2011. A Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa, Annex to the FAC conclusions, 14 November.
Available online:
19 Council of the EU. 2005. op. cit.
20 Council of the EU. 2009. The Stockholm Programme — An Open and Secure Europe Serving and Protecting Citizens, December. Available online:
12 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
ments with partners to improve counter-terrorism security, to exchange information and best practices,
to cooperate on capacity-building in third countries, to counter terrorist financing jointly and, finally, to
strengthen the multilateral fabric.
The challenge of implementation
Despite the stated priority in the Lisbon Treaty of establishing an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice
(AFSJ), matters related to national security remain exclusively the competence of the member states.
Cooperation between the member states remains limited due to national reflexes and a general lack of
trust between intelligence and security services. However, Europeans are building this trust progressively,
through the sharing of information and experience on very specific and technical issues.21 The
European Commission plays an important role therein.
With regard to the coordination between the EU and its member states, there are several specific forums
where this can take place. There are notably two working groups in the Council of the EU that
deal with counter-terrorism: the Terrorism Working Group, gathering representatives from interior and
justice ministries; and the CFSP Working Group on Terrorism, gathering representatives from foreign
ministries. In addition, the Standing Committee on Internal Security (COSI) was established in order to
‘ensure that operational cooperation on internal security is promoted and strengthened’ within the EU.22
COSI gathers representatives from the national security services with a view to coordinating, among
other matters, ‘police and customs cooperation, external border protection and judicial cooperation in
criminal matters relevant to operational cooperation in the field of internal security.’
At the EU level, the internal aspects of counter-terrorism activities fall within DG Justice or DG Home
Affairs. Europol and Eurojust are two agencies of particular importance, which are quite active through
their analyses, briefings, trainings and Joint Investigation Teams. However, counter-terrorism remains
a relatively marginal activity in their daily tasks, and their operational added value remains limited.23 In
addition, more coordination appears needed between the two agencies, as well as with and between
DG Home and DG Justice.
The EEAS deals with the external aspects of counter-terrorism activities through its various relevant
departments, namely one dealing with global issues and various geographical desks. Other relevant departments
include the Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) and the EU Military Staff (EUMS). The EEAS
is also in charge of implementing relevant regional policies, such as the Sahel strategy. The European
Commission plays a key role as well, not least through its multiple financial instruments, such as the IfS
or the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI).24
As terrorism knows no borders, services in charge of internal security must cooperate with those in
charge of external security, notably enhancing cooperation between the European Commission and
the EEAS. In this regard, there have been several instances of good cooperation, but some turf battles
have also been reported. The EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (EU CTC) plays a role in this complex
inter-institutional exercise, since he is in charge of both internal coordination (with member states) and
21 Interview with an official from the European Commission, Brussels, 23 April 2013.
22 Article 71 of the Lisbon Treaty.
23 Bruguière, J-L. 2013. ‘Le Chantier Inachevé de la Sécurité Collective Européenne’, La Nouvelle Revue Géopolitique, n.121, 28-34.
24 See for instance Wennerholm, P., E. Brattberg, and M. Rhinard, 2010. ‘The EU as a Counter-Terrorism Actor Abroad: Finding Opportunities, Overcoming
Constraints’, EPC Issue Paper no. 60 (Brussels: European Policy Centre).
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
external coordination. Despite very limited prerogatives, he has the ear of most member states and of
many third countries. He has also shown an ability to initiate reflections and policies. Gilles de Kerchove
was among the first to highlight the terrorist threat from the Sahel, eventually leading to the drafting of
the EU Sahel strategy. Yet, it is not clear how long his position will survive the post-Lisbon architecture.
The Treaty has empowered both the EEAS and the European Commission in counter-terrorism policies,
whereas the competences of the EU CTC remain loosely defined and non-executive.
The EU has not blindly ignored the need for some internal coherence, and in 2011 the Council of the
EU adopted ‘conclusions on enhancing the links between internal and external aspects’25 of counterterrorism,
which include recommendations to foster coordination and cooperation on all dimensions of
Among many things, the document recommends improving coordination and coherence ‘between the
EU’s internal and external [counter-terrorism] policies’, and fostering better communication between the
EU and third countries. Very concretely, it also calls for greater counter-terrorism expertise in EU delegations
to ensure that the external aspects of counter-terrorism are integrated into the EU’s common foreign
policy and that EU programmes are effectively implemented and coordinated with member states.
Priority countries and regions are named: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Central Asia, Southeast Asia,
the Horn of Africa, Maghreb and the Sahel.26
Coordination is thus in order at the European level, among EU institutions and with member states. But
in its ambition to emerge as a global counter-terrorism actor, the EU must also ensure cooperation and
coordination with key players in this sensitive policy area. With this purpose in mind, the EU is building a
sophisticated architecture of dialogues and consultations with its strategic partners, although there are
evident discrepancies between the EU’s ten partnerships. Terrorism is a regular item on the agenda of
meetings at the highest level between the EU and most of its partners. It features prominently in many
past summits’ joint statements, although it has become less central in the last few years – or even disappeared
in certain cases such as with Canada – reflecting a decreasing emphasis on this threat. Discussions
at the highest political level can mirror a good level of cooperation, like with the US or Japan
for instance, but they can also be used as a jolt to trigger more joint initiatives, as illustrated by the 2010
EU-India joint declaration on international terrorism.27 Very often, however, these rhetorical statements
hide a mere absence of cooperation. The joint statements with China and Russia are good instances
thereof. There are also some partners with whom the EU has almost never discussed terrorism at the
summit level. That is the case with Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
Discussions on terrorism can also take place at the ministerial level. The EU and the US hold a biannual
ministerial dialogue on justice and home affairs, which regularly puts terrorism on its agenda,
while the EU’s High Representative and the US State Secretary occasionally exchange their views on
this issue. The EU and Russia discuss terrorism issues in the framework of the Permanent Partnership
Council. With India, the issue is often present in filigree when the High Representative meets her
counterpart, although it does not drive the agenda. With other partners, there is perhaps less urgency
to address terrorism at the ministerial level, but the mechanism exists in case the need arises. The
EU and China could for instance use the High Level Strategic Dialogue for this purpose, although this
has not yet been the case.
25 Council of the EU. 2011. ‘Council Conclusions on Enhancing the Links between Internal and External Aspects of Counter-Terrorism’, op. cit.
26 Ibidem.
27 Council of the EU. 2010. EU-India Joint Declaration on International Terrorism, Brussels, 10 December. Available online: http://www.consilium.europa.
14 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
At the working level, coordination is facilitated by a certain number of structured dialogues between
the EU and some of its partners. There is a political dialogue on counter-terrorism with half of the
EU’s partners, namely the US, Canada, India, Japan and Russia. These dialogues take place at
least once every year, between representatives from the EEAS and foreign ministries. The EU CTC
is involved in most of these dialogues. There are some additional dialogues of importance with
the EU’s transatlantic partners, namely the meeting on justice and home affairs (with Canada), as
well as the steering committee on countering violent extremism and the working group on aviation
security (with the US). With Mexico, there is an annual dialogue on public security and law enforcement,
which has yet to address terrorism. With the other partners (China, South Korea, Brazil and
South Africa), there is no structured dialogue on the issue, although the Joint Action Plans with the
latter two foresee this possibility.
In addition to bilateral meetings, there are also two instances of trilateral dialogues, one between
the EU, Russia and the US in the field of justice and home affairs, following the 2006 Vienna initiative
aiming to strengthen ties in this field between the three sides;28 and the other between the EU,
the US and Canada with regard to the protection of critical infrastructures.29 Finally, as the member
states remain all-powerful in this policy area, it is not surprising that several partners have established
regular counter-terrorism dialogues with some EU member states. This is notably the case of
Canada, India, Russia, South Korea or the US. The EU-US partnership remains unique nonetheless
as it is the only dialogue where all member states are involved along with EU representatives in a
semi-annual dialogue.
Partnering on counter-terrorism issues
Over the last decade, the EU has developed growing counter-terrorism capabilities, with a global
scope. Although it is not yet a major actor in this policy area, it is slowly positioning itself vis-à-vis
member states and third countries. It has done so by negotiating ambitious judicial agreements, or by
launching joint counter-terrorism measures with key partners. This section reviews the EU’s cooperation
with its strategic partners in key domains of counter-terrorism activity.
Agreements to improve counter-terrorism security
The EU has concluded a certain amount of legal and judicial agreements with some of its partners,
with a view to strengthening its security against terrorist attacks or to facilitating cooperation during
counter-terrorism investigations. Agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance (MLA) are
very significant in this regard, although the EU has concluded such agreements with very few countries.
The 2003 EU-US extradition and MLA agreements were the first international agreements in
justice and home affairs signed by the EU. They have now entered into force and facilitate cooperation
on counter-terrorism files.30 Eurojust organises regular joint workshops with US representatives,
in order to ensure the effective implementation of these agreements. Japan is the only other strategic
partner with whom the EU has signed a MLA agreement, in 2009. It should be noted that the EU-US
28 EU-Russia-USA. 2006. Communiqué, Meeting at Ministerial Level, 4 May. Available online:
29 De Kerchove, G. 2012. op. cit.
30 Archick, K. 2013. ‘US-EU Cooperation against Terrorism’, Report, Congressional Research Service.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
agreements offer a framework for cooperation, but they nonetheless co-exist with bilateral agreements
between the US and the EU member states. The EU-Japan MLA agreement, on the other
hand, is a self-standing agreement, substituting for the absence of other bilateral agreements with
member states. It thus offers significant added value.
Possibilities of starting MLA negotiations with India or Russia have been raised several times. In 2012,
for instance, a workshop was organised by Europol and Eurojust, together with India, to promote
judicial cooperation on counter-terrorism.31 However, this perspective appears very ambitious – if not
unrealistic – at this stage, notably due to a lack of trust and to normative divergences. The fact that
India practices the death penalty has been an important hindrance for bilateral judicial cooperation.
Having said this, the US practice of the death penalty did not prevent the conclusion of an agreement,
because mutual trust and the need to cooperate in the aftermath of 9/11 simply outweighed European
normative concerns.
The agreements on passenger name record (PNR) data are another major type of accord between
the EU and some partners. PNR data is information provided by passengers while booking their flight
tickets, which can then be accessed and shared by government agencies in order to fight terrorism
and serious crime. The EU has signed PNR agreements with Australia, Canada and the US. The
transatlantic PNR agreement suggests that the EU is a natural interlocutor for the US on important
home affairs issues, not least because it exempts Washington from negotiating 28 separate treaties –
which would possibly create inequalities among EU citizens if the terms of these treaties differ.32 The
PNR agreements have proved particularly strenuous to negotiate since they affect the very sensitive
boundaries between security and individual privacy. There has been a lot of pressure from the European
Parliament and NGOs in particular, to resist some controversial elements of these agreements,
such as the duration of data retention. Nevertheless, these agreements have been reviewed by the
EU, and deemed to be useful in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, more similar agreements are
likely to follow. Among EU partners, South Africa and South Korea have expressed an interest in initiating
PNR negotiations.
There are a certain number of concrete agreements, almost exclusively with the US, that were justified
as measures aimed at tightening security against terrorist threats. This is the case for instance of
the 2004 Container Security Initiative, according to which the EU must scan all containers shipped
towards US territory, or the 2010 aviation security agreement in which both sides pledged to achieve
maximum reliance on each other’s security measures and avoid duplication.
Exchange of information and best practices
In addition to formal agreements, the EU can share information and best practices with its key partners
on a regular basis. These exchanges are of course dependent upon the level of trust between the
partners, and they can be facilitated by structured consultations or dialogues such as those mentioned
previously. These exchanges are most developed, by far, with the US. According to Gilles de Kerchove,
the EU CTC, there is ‘no significant counter-terrorism investigation in Europe in which US support has
not played a crucial role’.33 Joint trainings and seminars have been organised, for instance, on explo-
31 De Kerchove, G. 2012. op. cit.
32 Byrne, A. 2012. ‘Building the Transatlantic Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. The Case of the Passenger Name Record Agreements’, IAI Working
Paper 12-06 (Rome: Istituto Affari Internazionale)
33 De Kerchove, G. 2011. EU Action Plan on Combating Terrorism, Brussels, January. Available online:
16 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
sives (involving US armed forces and the European Defence Agency) as well as on radicalisation and
recruitment, notably among Somali and Pakistani diasporas.34 Cooperation has been established
with Europol in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to ease the exchange of information. The Secret Service
(since 2006), the FBI (since 2006) and the Postal Inspection Service (since 2007) have liaison officers
at Europol, while Europol has posted two liaison officers in Washington DC. The US has also a liaison
officer at Eurojust,35 and the EU has home affairs counsellors in Washington (Moscow is the only other
place where the EU has sent home affairs counsellors). According to a senior European Commission
official, the level of trust between the EU and the US is improving, allowing for more exchange of intelligence
in an incremental manner.36
Together with the US and Canada, the transatlantic partnership covers critical infrastructure protection
(CIP) in a trilateral dialogue, with a view to strengthening cooperation by ‘sharing knowledge,
best practices and information on CIP, including the development of a global infrastructure security
toolkit’.37 Transatlantic cooperation is completed by the operational agreement between Europol and
Canada, which led for instance to the organisation of a joint seminar on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) in 2008.
With regard to the EU-Russia partnership, counter-terrorism has been identified as a priority area for
future cooperation. Some ambitious aims have been expressed, such as signing a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) on the fight against terrorism,38 which could incorporate new priorities and actions
that are not reflected in their underpinning cooperation programme, namely the 2005 Road Map
for the four Common Spaces.39 Beyond the political dialogue, there are several possible tracks for
sharing intelligence, with Europol notably. The latter has concluded a strategic agreement on mutual
exchange of information with Russia, which includes objectives related to the fight against terrorism.
Contacts are also possible through EU counsellors in Moscow responsible for JHA issues. The EU
CTC is in regular contact with Russian authorities to exchange best practices and lessons learned.40
EU-India counter-terrorism cooperation has been increasing recently, although it remains difficult and
limited. The EU CTC has visited India several times, including in the company of Catherine Ashton,
the EU High Representative, in June 2010. Europol has engaged counterparts in India, notably the
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Talks with Japan
are wide-ranging and include, notably, exchanges on best practices.41 Cooperation was also initiated
between Europol and Japan’s police agency, although there is no agreement on information exchange.
With South Korea, the 2010 Framework Agreement foresees exchanges of ‘experiences in
respect of terrorism prevention’,42 although little has been done so far. With other strategic partners,
intelligence sharing and exchanges of best practices is limited at best, or possibly inexistent.
34 See the annual progress reports published by the EU CTC. Available online:
35 Kaunert, C. 2010. ‘Europol and EU Counterterrorism: International Security Actorness in the External Dimension’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism,
33:7, 652-671.
36 Interview with a European Commission official, Brussels, 23 April 2013.
37 European Commission. 2013. ‘A new approach to the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection. Making European Critical Infrastructures
more secure’, Commission Staff Working Document (Brussels: European Commission). Available online:
38 Hernandez i Sagrera, R. Potemkina, O. 2012. ‘Russia and the Common Space on Freedom, Security and Justice’, Study, European Parliament, 24.
39 Council of the EU. 2005. Road Maps, Brussels, 11 May. Available online:
40 De Kerchove, G. 2011. op. cit.; Hernandez i Sagrera, R. Potemkina, O. op. cit.
41 Interview with a Japanese official, Brussels, 4 May 2011.
42 EU-ROK. 2010. Framework Agreement Between the European Union and its Member States, on the one Part, and the Republic of Korea, on the other
Part. Available online:
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
Cooperation and capacity-building in third countries
The external dimension of the EU’s counter-terrorism efforts includes financial and technical assistance
to third countries. This modest assistance can be implemented through EU financial instruments
(such as the IfS or the ENPI), or via EU capacity-building missions. For instance, the EU has
developed many capacity-building programmes in third countries ‘that are of particular priority to
the EU’, notably in North Africa and Southeast Asia, although it should try to obtain more ‘tangible
Having said this, the EU is not acting in an international vacuum, and Brussels can thus coordinate its
programmes with those of its partners, or even develop joint initiatives. In Afghanistan, for instance,
the EU is present with its police training mission (EUPOL). Canada is the only non-EU state participating
in the mission. Cooperation was also undertaken with Japan, notably by setting up a police
training centre.44 The EU and Japan are among the biggest donors in Afghanistan. Counter-terrorism
cooperation between the EU and the US in Afghanistan has been modest, while most efforts between
Europeans and North Americans took place within the NATO framework. However, in dealing with
the post-2014 transition, there is perhaps a greater scope for EU-US cooperation, notably in terms
of police and judicial capacity building. India, China and Russia are three other strategic partners that
could become more involved in Afghanistan, and with whom the EU could seek enhanced cooperation.
At this stage, however, little has been achieved. China has been cooperative at the diplomatic
level, notably to mediate with Pakistan,45 but it is not yet ready to go beyond this first-level engagement,
unless its national interest is directly threatened.
The Sahel is another region that has been identified as a source of concern, with regard to terrorism
and transnational threats.46 The EU Sahel Strategy mentioned that the EU should work in cooperation
with the US, Canada and Japan, in addition to regional partners.47 Yet cooperation remains very
limited – although more operational cooperation was largely reported with member states, notably
with France during the Mali intervention. Coordination is nonetheless reported to be underway with
Canada, in the framework of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF),48 and with Japan, in terms
of funding and capacity-building.
Overall, the EU-Japan partnership is quite operational. In Southeast Asia, they promote regional cooperation
through regional Counter-Terrorism Centres.49 They have also discussed the creation of training
centres in Japan for police and counter-terrorism forces from the Asian region.50 With the exception of
Japan, Canada and the US, the EU’s strategic partnerships appear quite shallow in terms of capacity-
building. This task was mentioned in the 2010 Framework Agreement with South Korea but never
implemented. When it comes to South Africa, despite the EU’s significant interest and involvement on
the African continent, including for terrorism-related policies, there is no cooperation on this issue with
43 Council of the EU. 2011. ‘Council Conclusions on Enhancing the Links between Internal and External Aspects of Counter-Terrorism’, Luxembourg, 9-10
June. Available online:
44 EU-Japan. 2011. EU-Japan Joint Press Statement, Brussels, 28 May. Available online :
45 Gill, B., Murphy, M. 2005. ‘China’s Evolving Approach to Counterterrorism’, Harvard Asia Quarterly, Winter/Spring, 21-32.
46 Renard, T. 2010. ‘Terrorism and Other Transnational Threats in the Sahel: What Role for the EU?’, Policy Brief (Washington DC, Center on Global
Counterterrorism Cooperation).
47 EEAS. 2011. Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, op. cit.
48 GCTF. 2012. Co-Chairs Summary, Second Meeting of the Coordinating Committee, Istanbul, 7-8 June. Available online:
49 Council of the EU. 2005. EU-Japan Joint Press Statement, Luxembourg, 2 May. Available online:
50 Mykal, O. op. cit., 198.
18 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
the major continental power. Finally, the 2005 EU-Russia Road Map mentioned as an objective the joint
improvement of counter-terrorism capabilities in third countries, but this has not been implemented due
to a lack of trust. In fact, paradoxically, the EU has developed counter-terrorism programmes on Russia
(more than with Russia), in order to beef up Russia’s counter-terrorism capacities. These programmes
were developed formerly in the framework of TACIS projects and now under the ENPI. Interestingly,
Russia is therefore a partner as much as a target of European counter-terrorism efforts.
Countering terrorist financing
Like any other organisation, terrorist groups need money. This creates opportunities for counterterrorism
experts to track these groups (‘follow the money’), gather information on them and, eventually,
freeze their assets. The EU has adopted a certain number of instruments related to terrorist
financing, most of which are designed to implement or enhance existing international regimes.51
Indeed, the EU’s action in this field is mostly framed by the work of the UN and the FATF, an intergovernmental
body developing and promoting policies to combat money laundering and terrorist
financing. Cooperation between the EU and its partners fits particularly well the FATF framework,
since all ten strategic partners are among the 36 FATF members.
The EU considers the fight against terrorist financing an important dimension of its broader counter-
terrorism efforts, and has therefore adopted a specific strategy on it, as mentioned previously.
This strategy argues that ‘constructive dialogues with key partners’ are necessary, in particular with
the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council.52 EU-US cooperation is framed by the Terrorist Finance
Tracking Programme (TFTP), also known as the SWIFT agreement, under which both sides can
share financial transfers data related to counter-terrorism investigations. This agreement was first
rejected by the European Parliament on the basis of data privacy concerns, similar to its objections
to the PNR agreement. The recent Snowden leaks – after the name of the American consultant who
revealed massive US spying practices in Europe – have certainly not appeased these concerns,
and suggest that more trust-building measures are needed even between old allies. The SWIFT
agreement was eventually adopted in 2010 and, although still controversial, it has been deemed an
effective instrument in the fight against terrorism by the EU and the US.53
Cooperation with all other strategic partners occurs mostly within the FATF. Mexico, for instance,
is deemed to be an important partner with regard to the fight against money laundering.54 Japan is
another potentially important partner. In their 2001 Action Plan, the EU and Japan listed measures
to be taken immediately against terrorism, including joint initiatives to stop the financing of terrorism.
55 Terrorism financing is also mentioned as a possible area for cooperation with South Korea,
in the 2010 Framework Agreement, and with Russia in the 2005 Road Map. Russia is a particular
case again, since some EU programmes are implemented in the country. There is for instance an
EU programme against money laundering and terrorist financing, implemented by the Council of
Europe.56 With China, there has been some rudimentary cooperation in the past, but there is none
51 See Bures, O. op. cit., 173-199.
52 Council of the EU. 2008. Revised Strategy on Terrorist Financing, op. cit.
53 Archick, K. 2013. op. cit.
54 Interview with an EU official (Council of the EU), Brussels, 13 May 2011.
55 EU-Japan. 2001. Shaping our Common Future: An Action Plan for EU-Japan Cooperation, Brussels. Available online:
56 ‘MOLI-RU 2: Project against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the Russian Federation’, Website of the Council of Europe (undated). Available
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
at the moment. Brussels and Beijing organised, for instance, a joint workshop on anti-money laundering
in 2009, addressing the financing of terrorism.57 Overall, bilateral cooperation between the
EU and its partners remains limited, with the notable exception of the transatlantic partnership.
Strengthening the multilateral fabric
The 2003 ESS stated that the EU is committed to promoting effective multilateralism. It is thus normal
for the EU CT Strategy to argue that the EU will act ‘through and in conjunction with the United
Nations and other international or regional organisations’, in order to pursue its counter-terrorism
objectives.58 The UN sits at the core of the multilateral system. The EU has developed ‘extensive’
contacts at all levels with the UN,59 which have deepened with the establishment of an annual political
dialogue. There has been a ‘particularly close dialogue with the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive
Directorate (CTED)’,60 and the UNODC has been tasked to implement several EU projects. Having
said this, while not challenging the doctrine of effective multilateralism, some EU officials express
doubts about the added value of UN agencies in counter-terrorism, due to the sensitive nature of the
issue.61 Beyond the UN, the EU is also cooperating with several other multilateral and regional organisations.
There is basic counter-terrorism cooperation with the OSCE and the Council of Europe, but
this cooperation could be enhanced in the near future, particularly in Central and South Asia with a
view to dealing with the post-2014 transition in Afghanistan.
The EU and its strategic partners are all, more or less, committed to addressing the terrorist threat in
the multilateral context. Support for multilateralism has been expressed in joint documents without
exception, namely in joint declarations (such as the 2005 EU-US Declaration on Enhancing Cooperation
in the Field of Non-Proliferation and the Fight against Terrorism62), in joint summit statements
(with Canada, regularly, for instance), in joint action plans (such as with Mexico, India or Brazil, for
instance), or even in binding documents (such as the 2010 Framework Agreement with South Korea).
Cooperation takes place first and foremost within the UN system, where the EU and its partners support
politically, and in some cases technically, the universal implementation of the UN CT Strategy and
some terrorism-related UN resolutions.
In addition to the UN, cooperation with partners occurs within various multilateral fora. The successful
EU-US push leading to the adoption of an ICAO declaration on aviation security in 2010, agreed
by 190 countries, is a positive instance of transatlantic cooperation at the multilateral level. The EU
was also prompt to join the GCTF, which is a US initiative under the Obama administration to reboost
multilateral cooperation, ten years after 9/11. The EU is the sole non-state actor therein, but
it has been active nonetheless in the various Working Groups, where it interacts with its partners.
Other relevant ‘minilateral’ fora include the FATF or the G8 CTAG. In the G8, Japan has led efforts to
strengthen links with the UN system in counter-terrorism.
57 Hassan, O. 2010. ‘Mapping Bilateralism’, Working Paper 3, EU-GRASP, 16.
58 Council of the EU. 2005. op. cit., 7.
59 De Kerchove, G. 2012. op. cit., 44.
60 De Kerchove, G. 2009. ‘Report on the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Terrorism’, Brussels, 2 June, 17. Available online:
61 Interviews with European officials, Brussels, April 2013.
62 Council of the EU. 2005. EU-US Declaration on Enhancing Cooperation in the Field of Non-Proliferation and the Fight against Terrorism, Washington,
20 June. Available online:
20 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
Overall, the EU-US partnership is the most developed at the multilateral level. Cooperation with
Mexico and Canada is usually positively rated. Japan and South Korea are also deemed to be
constructive partners at the multilateral level, but also at the regional one. They are both participating
in the bolstering of regional capabilities, and they have been active players in ASEM, which
convenes a regular conference on counter-terrorism and has issued a declaration on cooperation
against international terrorism in 2002.63 They also participate in the regular discussions in the
context of the ARF, namely the Inter-Sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational
Crime. Brazil and South Africa converge rhetorically with the EU, but no cooperation was reported
on counter-terrorism within the multilateral framework. It could be added that inter-regional cooperation
with these two partners is equally under-developed, although the EU-Africa strategic
partnership could offer some interesting opportunities to address the terrorist challenge on the
China, India and Russia are considered to be more difficult interlocutors at the multilateral level. The
EU and China stressed, on various occasions, their ‘recognition of the United Nations as the only
truly global forum for the fight against terrorism’.64 In fact, after 9/11, China was quick to express
support for the US and to join the relevant UN resolutions, protocols and conventions. Beijing was
also active within the ASEM framework, where it was particularly involved in the group on aviation
security in 2010.65 At the regional level, China has been active, through ASEAN and APEC, notably.
66 Yet, despite various interactions at the multilateral level, no concrete joint initiatives or actions
have emerged. Beyond an apparent convergence of views on the need for a multilateral approach,
Brussels and Beijing have distinct interpretations of multilateralism. The Chinese efforts to develop
the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), for instance, go against the EU’s stated preference
for norm-based effective multilateralism.67 The SCO is heavily military-driven and involves no
cooperation on human rights. Its light institutional framework includes a Regional Anti-Terrorism
Structure (RATS), although it remains mostly a dormant body.
In a similar manner, the EU and India have pledged to support ‘effective multilateralism’ in their Joint
Action Plan, but multilateralism has a different meaning in Brussels and in New Delhi, and its practice
largely differs. India favours a selective form of multilateral engagement, and it has failed to consolidate
the multilateral security framework in its own region (e.g. SAARC), despite the incentives to
tackle terrorism together with its neighbours.
Assessing the partnerships
The unity of the concept of ‘strategic partnerships’ hides a diversity of cooperative relationships in
counter-terrorism, different in scope and depth. In other words, not all strategic partnerships are
equal. The US is the EU’s most strategic partner, by far. It is the only one that is singled out in the
EU CT Strategy, as well as in all progress reports from the EU CTC. Cooperation is very dense
63 ASEM. 2002. Declaration on Cooperation against Terrorism, joint statement at the 4th Asia-Europe Summit, Copenhagen, 22-24 September. Available
64 Summit joint statement, 2007.
65 ASEM. 2010. Chair’s Summary on the 8th ASEM Conference on Counter-Terrorism, Brussels, 10-11 June. Available online:
66 Gill, B., Murphy, M. op. cit.
67 Renard, T. 2013. ‘Strategic Bilateralism or Effective Multilateralism? The EU, the SCO and SAARC’, in T. Christiansen, E. Kirchner and P. Murray (eds),
The Palgrave Handbook of EU-Asia Relations (London: Palgrave Macmillan), 359-375.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
at all levels and across various policy areas. It is also the only partnership involving directly all 28
member states in a legal dialogue. Declarations on counter-terrorism have been issued jointly by
the US, the EU and its member states,68 which is not a standard practice in EU diplomacy. This
indicates a good level of pragmatism in the transatlantic relationship. With all other partners, the EU
member states are involved indirectly, through relevant Council working groups such as COTER, or
they carry out their own bilateral dialogues with these countries, in parallel to the EU’s framework.
Besides the US, constructive cooperation has been reported with a group of countries: Canada,
Japan and, to a lesser extent, South Korea. Canada is considered to be a close partner, though the
partnership tends to be mostly envisaged in a broader transatlantic framework. The partnership with
Japan is seen as particularly mature, whereas the one with South Korea is nascent but promising.
Cooperation with this ‘like-minded’ group is certainly more straightforward than engagement with
Russia, India and China. The counter-terrorism policies of the latter trio, or at least some aspects of
them, are not necessarily compatible with EU standards while, on the other hand, they are at times
reluctant to cooperate with the EU as an entity in counter-terrorism, preferring bilateral talks with its
member states. For instance, Russia’s operational cooperation is already well developed with Sweden,
Spain, Poland and Germany, among others. As for India, it has established joint working groups
on counter-terrorism with the UK and Germany, whereas cooperation was deepened with France,
following the Mumbai attacks, to cover ‘threat assessment, technical collaborations and operational
exchanges’.69 On paper, the partnerships with Russia and India are ambitious and quite advanced,
but they are by and large under-delivering. The partnership with China is shallow and superficial.
Finally, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have shown little interest in cooperating with the EU so far.
Hence they can hardly be seen as strategic partners in this field.
The foundations of any partnership rest on bilateral ties. In counter-terrorism, the EU has developed
these ties with most of its partners – even if at times only superficially. A very basic, though highly
visible, sign of cooperation is the adoption of joint statements/declarations on terrorism. The EU
has done so with four partners: India, Japan, Russia and the US. These documents do not always
lead to concrete actions, but they constitute a political signal. A distinction should be operated
nonetheless between the joint statements with Russia and Japan, which were issued shortly after
9/11, and those with the US and India. With the US, several joint declarations confirmed the importance
of this partnership, whereas the 2010 joint declaration with India was more a declaration
of intent. More substantial agreements have been (or are being) negotiated between the EU and its
partners. These include agreements on extradition, MLA, PNR or the financing of terrorism. Yet, the
EU-US partnership is the only one that has managed to cumulate a number of these.
Bilateral cooperation is managed through various kinds of exchanges and dialogues. The EU has
a political dialogue on counter-terrorism with half of its strategic partners. In addition, it has developed
other useful mechanisms such as establishing contacts between Europol, Eurojust and
their counterparts, i.e. via liaison officers, or deploying JHA counsellors in EU delegations in Russia
and the US. Strategic partnerships are thus built on a sophisticated architecture that allows for the
exchange of information when cooperation is mature, or for the building of trust in an earlier phase
of the partnership.
68 See for instance: Council of the EU. 2010. EU-US and Member States 2010 Declaration on Counterterrorism, Brussels, June. Available online: http://
69 ‘France in India’, Presentation on the website of the French Embassy in New Delhi (published on 18 January 2013). Available online: http://ambafrancein.
22 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
Cooperation between the EU and its partners can also take place at the regional level or, more
precisely, in the form of trans-regionalism, that is to say involving various players from across two
or more regions. In the Western hemisphere, these forums include the OSCE and the Council of
Europe. With Asian partners, some form of cooperation has taken place in the framework of ASEM
and ARF, which have both set up regular meetings to discuss terrorism issues and have led to common
declarations. The EU has not been able to engage, at the regional level, with its partners from
Africa and Latin America on counter-terrorism issues, partly due to a lack of interest, and in spite of
strong inter-regional frameworks expressed notably in the partnership between the EU and the African
Union. In fact, all existing regional organisations have very weak counter-terrorism structures
and policies – if any at all. In South Asia, for instance, where terrorism is such a deadly scourge,
member states of SAARC have been unable to develop an effective collective response. Assuredly,
no regional institution compares to the EU. This is an evident limit to any EU inter-regional policy on
counter-terrorism and, therefore, to the EU’s multilayered approach.
Complementing bilateral and regional ties, the EU and its partners cooperate at the multilateral
level. To begin with, they have all signed the UN CT Strategy, adopted by the UNGA in 2005,
which offers a good starting point for political cooperation at any level. All partners are also parties
to most UN legal instruments dealing with terrorism,70 and they have been cooperative in filing
reports to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee with regard to the status of their
national counter-terrorism efforts.71 It can be said, therefore, that there is broad support for multilateral
engagement. The significance of this support should be put in perspective, however, since
UN monitoring is light and not intrusive. It should also be clear that the post-9/11 context induced
global support for counter-terrorism, not least because no country wanted to antagonise the US.
This does not prevent some partners from being mildly defiant vis-à-vis effective multilateralism,
and from engaging in multilateral efforts that contravene the EU’s fundamental principles. This is the
case, for instance, of the China-Russia counter-terrorism initiative within the SCO.
The EU’s role within the multilateral system is facilitated by the annual EU-UN political dialogue on
counter-terrorism, which helps to monitor and coordinate respective and joint actions. Having said
this, the EU’s cooperation with its partners is more concrete and useful within technical organisations,
such as the FATF or ICAO. The EU-US partnership, for instance, has been particularly effective
in ICAO. Cooperation also takes place in less formal forums, such as the G8 CTAG or the
GCTF, although not all partners are part of these institutions.72 The GCTF has become an important
venue to coordinate projects in third countries, and good cooperation between the EU and its partners
therein has already been reported.
The EU’s approach to counter-terrorism is thus multilayered, combining bilateralism, (some) regionalism
and multilateralism. There are interactions between these various levels, which is after all
one of the purposes of strategic partnerships. Good bilateral ties can make multilateralism more
effective whereas, conversely, multilateral encounters can facilitate bilateral discussions. However,
in counter-terrorism, these interactions are limited and could certainly be further strengthened.
70 ‘International Legal Instruments to Counter Terrorism’, Website of UN Action to Counter Terrorism. Available online:
71 Country Reports, Website of the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee. Available online:
72 Brazil, Mexico and South Korea are not members of the GCTF. G8 members and the EU are part of the G8 CTAG.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
Overall, this paper has shown that counter-terrorism cooperation is deepening between the EU and
its partners. Several EU documents acknowledge emphatically that counter-terrorism considerations
‘play a crucial role’73 in the EU’s debate over strategic partnerships, and it is said that the fight against
terrorism is ‘increasingly shaping the political dialogue between the EU and partner countries’.74 Having
said this, counter-terrorism cooperation continues to be very limited with most partners. The strategic
nature of some partnerships in this policy area clearly remains to be demonstrated. Conversely, some
other countries have become important partners of the EU. This includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan
and Turkey. The EU has initiated a political dialogue on counter-terrorism with the latter three countries.
One key question remains: is the EU itself a strategic partner? The EU is a nascent counter-terrorism
actor, which has developed its policies and capabilities since 2001. It is progressively positioning itself
as a reliable partner internally, vis-à-vis its member states, and externally, vis-à-vis third countries.
Comparing the EU with other non-state actors, it is impressive how much has been achieved already
in such a sensitive policy area, in which trust is critical. The EU has limited capabilities, for sure, but it is
also the only supranational body to possess this level of competence and ambition, and to have a say
in various regional and multilateral forums. Building trust is slow and difficult. This is laboriously starting
within Europe, and it will likely take even more time at the international level.
The internal dimension of EU counter-terrorism policy is by far dominant, but the external one has developed
significantly in recent years, to encompass various instruments and programmes. Having said
this, the member states continue to be the major players in this field, and they have their own strategic
partnerships with third countries, sometimes overlapping with the EU ones. This could open avenues
for effective coordination between the national and European levels, but no such concrete instances
have been reported so far. In fact, bilateral ties between member states and third countries on counterterrorism
are pursued outside the confines of the EU, and are largely unaffected by the EU-level of
strategic partnership.75
Counter-terrorism is a sensitive issue. The EU has only limited experience in this domain, and it remains
a minor player, even in Europe. However, despite limited means and competences, the EU has a role
to play and the potential to become a more effective agent for coordination in a field that desperately
needs it. As in other policy areas, to develop strategic partnerships, the EU must become a strategic
partner first.
73 Council of the EU. 2011. ‘Council Conclusions on Enhancing the Links between Internal and External Aspects of Counter-Terrorism’, op. cit.
74 EEAS. 2010. India – Country Strategy Paper (2007-2013): Mid-term Review, op. cit, 7.
75 See Argomaniz, J., Rees, W. 2013. ‘The EU and Counter-Terrorism’, in S. Biscop and R. Whitman (eds), The Routledge Handbook of European Security
(Abingdon: Routledge), 225-234. This assumption was also confirmed during an interview with an official from the European Commission, Brussels, 23
April 2013.
24 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
The purpose of this appendix is to offer synthetic information on each strategic partnership, to
complement the main body of this paper. It covers the key documents defining the principles of
cooperation (where they address counter-terrorism); relevant dialogues established to address
counter-terrorism issues; and a brief assessment of each partnership. The information provided here
is not comprehensive. Only the dialogues that deal with counter-terrorism issues on a regular basis
are listed, hence leaving out other dialogues that could potentially address the issue in the future (this
explains why summits or ministerial dialogues are not systematically mentioned).
Key documents:
• EU-US Declaration on Combating Terrorism (2004):
• EU-US Declaration on Enhancing Cooperation in the Field of Non-Proliferation and the Fight against
Terrorism (2005):
• Toledo Joint Statement (2010):
• EU-US and Member States Declaration on Counterterrorism (2010): http://register.consilium.
Key dialogues:
• Summit (annual)
• Ministerial dialogue on justice and home affairs (twice a year)
• Ministerial meeting on foreign affairs (annual)
• Political dialogue on terrorism (twice a year)
• Dialogue on counter-terrorism (twice a year)
• Steering committee on countering violent extremism (several times per year)
• Working group on aviation security (annual)
• 28 member states + EU + US dialogue on counter-terrorism and international law (twice a year)
• EU-US-Russia dialogue on justice and home affairs (annual)
• EU-US-Canada dialogue on the protection of critical infrastructures (annual)
Brief assessment:
Although some transatlantic cooperation on counter-terrorism existed prior to 9/11, mostly in multilateral
forums, the 2001 attacks have led to the institutionalisation and a substantial deepening of bilateral
links.76 Terrorism was a predominant item on the agenda of bilateral summits under the Bush administration,
heavily driven by the ‘global war on terror’. Under the Obama administration, the rhetoric on counterterrorism
was significantly toned down, but cooperation in practice has continued to be strengthened.
Cooperation between the EU and the US is by far the most developed among all strategic partners, but
some hurdles remain. On the American side, the added value of the EU is not always understood, and bilateral
cooperation with member states remains the favoured path for intelligence agencies. For instance,
FBI officers in London have 20 to 30 meetings with UK intelligence and security officials each week.77 On
76 Segell, G. M. 2004. ‘Intelligence Agency Relations between the European Union and the US’, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence,
17:1, 81-96.
77 Aldrich, R. J. 2009. ‘US-European Intelligence Co-operation on Counter-terrorism: Low Politics and Compulsion’, The British Journal of Politics and
International Relations, vol.11, 122-139.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
the European side, concerns are regularly raised regarding detainees, surveillance, data protection and
civil liberties. Despite a shared emphasis on the need to combat terrorism, the EU and the US are not
always in full agreement over the perception of the threat and how to deal with it. As a result, cooperation
remains suboptimal.
Key documents:
• EU-Canada Joint Summit Statement (2002):
Key dialogues:
• Senior officials’ meeting on justice and home affairs (annual)
• Political dialogue on counter-terrorism (annual)
• EU-US-Canada dialogue on the protection of critical infrastructures (annual)
Brief assessment:
The EU and Canada share a common perception of the terrorist threat. The EU and Canada are generally
perceived as normatively closer in their approach to counter-terrorism than they are to the US, as
they perceive the problem as a civilian more than a military one. Yet, despite this large convergence
of perceptions and approaches, concrete operational coordination appears limited, entailing a risk of
duplication and lack of synergies.78 The annual EU progress reports, as well as interviews with EU and
Canadian officials, confirm that few joint actions take place and that much more could be done. One
explanation for this could be that the partnership is often considered in the context of transatlantic cooperation,
where it is overshadowed by the major importance of EU-US cooperation.79
Key documents:
• Mexico-European Union Strategic Partnership Joint Executive Plan (2010): http://www.consilium.
Key dialogues:
• Dialogue on public security and law enforcement (annual)
Brief assessment:
Terrorism is not a central item for cooperation between the EU and Mexico. Although they both firmly
condemn terrorist acts, their experience in this domain differs widely. Mexico is more concerned with
domestic and regional criminal groups than with terrorists. In any case, the two sides have not felt the
urge to prioritise this policy area so far.
78 Alegre, S. 2008. ‘The EU’s External Cooperation in Criminal Justice and Counter-Terrorism: An Assessment of the Human Rights Implications with a
Particular Focus on Cooperation with Canada’, CEPS Special Report, Centre for European Policy Studies.
79 Ibidem.
26 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
Key documents:
• Brazil-European Union Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan (2008):
• European Union-Brazil Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan (2011): http://www.consilium.
Key dialogues:
Brief assessment:
The EU and Brazil are each committed to fighting terrorism, but cooperation has not materialised yet,
mostly due to a lack of interest. Tellingly, there is no formal common recognition that terrorism constitutes
a major threat to international security, as often stated in joint statements with other strategic partners.
It appears that the security dimension of the Joint Action Plan has been the least implemented.
More broadly, bilateral cooperation on security is under-developed at best, as illustrated by the fact that
no project related to security appears in the EU’s Country Strategy Paper (2007-2013) on Brazil.80 The
section on the fight against terrorism was simply copy-pasted from the previous plan in the updated
version of the JAP (2012-14), confirming that expectations should remain low.
Key documents:
Key dialogues:
Brief assessment:
The EU and South Africa have no cooperation on counter-terrorism. The EU is focusing many of its
counter-terrorism external activities in Africa. There are programmes in North Africa, in West Africa and
in the Horn of Africa. Yet, the EU has not felt the need to engage its only African strategic partner, South
Africa, on these initiatives, despite the regional and comprehensive reach expressed by their strategic
partnership. In August 2012, Catherine Ashton briefly discussed the evolution of the security situation
in the Sahel with her South African counterpart, but this was more about regional security than it was
about terrorism.81
80 European Commission. 2007. Brazil – Country Strategy Paper (2007-2013), European Commission, E/2007/889. Available online: http://eeas.europa.
81 European Commission. 2012. ‘Catherine Ashton Travels to South Africa for the 11th EU-SA Ministerial Political Dialogue’, Press release, 23 August.
Available online:
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
Key documents:
• The India-EU Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan (2005):
• Global Partners for Global Challenges: The EU-India Joint Action Plan (2008): http://eeas.europa.
• EU-India Joint Declaration on International Terrorism (2010):
Key dialogues:
• Summit (annual)
• Security dialogue (annual)
• Political dialogue on counter-terrorism (annual)
Brief assessment:
The EU and India share a relatively similar perception of terrorism as a threat to their security, as they
have both experienced a long history of it. During the last decade, both sides have regarded Pakistan
and Afghanistan as (potential) sources of concern and destabilisation. This has laid the foundations
for cooperation. But these foundations remain shaky and cooperation shallow. Despite a rhetorical
convergence, some major obstacles stand in the way of good cooperation. On the one hand, India
prefers to engage bilaterally with the EU member states, as it remains unconvinced of the EU’s added
value in counter-terrorism. On the other hand, normative divergences limit the breadth of cooperation.
Death penalty issues hindered cooperation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. Negotiating
a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreement would help prove the EU’s added value in this domain.
Taking into account the changing nature of terrorism and its nexus with other challenges, an ambitious
suggestion was made years ago to ‘expand the EU-India dialogue to include the link between
drug trafficking and terrorism, document security, illicit arms trafficking and cyber-terrorism’.82 But
overall, the partnership is continuously under-delivering.
82 Council of the EU. 2005. The India-EU Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan, 7 September. Available online:
28 ESPO working paper n.4 January 2014
Key documents:
Key dialogues:
• Summit (annual)
Brief assessment:
On the surface, the EU and China converge on their counter-terrorism rhetoric. They both agree that
terrorism is a global scourge that must be combated. Yet, this does not mean that there is a sustained
convergence of agenda and priorities. Europeans have taken an approach of fighting terrorism at home
and abroad (e.g. in Afghanistan, most directly, but also in many other regions including in Asia through
assistance and capacity-building programmes), whereas the Chinese remain reluctant to be involved
in counter-terrorism activities beyond their borders. Overall, Beijing keeps a low profile on this issue. Its
main priority is to avoid external interventions in its domestic affairs, particularly those related to security.
The absence of concrete cooperation is confirmed by the absence of any mention of China in the EU
counter-terrorism progress reports.
Key documents:
• EU-Japan Joint Declaration on Terrorism (2001):
• Shaping our Common Future: An Action Plan for EU-Japan Cooperation (2001): http://eeas.
Key dialogues:
• Summit (annual)
• Political dialogue on counter-terrorism (annual)
Brief assessment:
Europe and Japan have both experienced the horrors of terrorism. There is thus a common perception
of the threat. The EU and Japan also share a common approach to tackling this scourge. Cooperation
is valuable and there is more than meets the eye. There is no unnecessary rhetorical inflation of the
threat or over-institutionalisation of common responses. Cooperative measures are taken where possible
or needed. The partnership is mature, informal and, overall, quite effective.
Confidential partnerships? The EU, its strategic partners and international terrorism
Key documents:
• Framework Agreement Between the European Union and its Member States, on the one Part,
and the Republic of Korea, on the other Part (2010):
Key dialogues:
Brief assessment:
The EU and South Korea have repeated on various occasions, including during summits, their willingness
to work more closely together in the field of counter-terrorism. South Korea is generally perceived
as an effective counter-terrorism player, with good domestic capabilities. It supports the multilateral
framework and plays a constructive role in improving regional capabilities. Having said this, cooperation
with the EU remains minimal. There is thus scope for deepening this partnership.
Key documents:
• EU-Russia Joint Statement on the Fight against Terrorism (2002): http://www.consilium.europa.
• Road Maps for the four Common Spaces (2005):
Key dialogues:
• Summit (twice a year)
• Permanent Partnership Council (several times per year)
• Political dialogue on counter-terrorism (twice a year)
• EU-US-Russia dialogue on justice and home affairs
Brief assessment:
The EU and Russia are both interested in counter-terrorism, but this does not necessarily result in a
convergence of interest or values. The Russian way of dealing with terrorism, domestically or multilaterally
(through organisations such as the SCO), contrasts with the European approach. In addition,
priorities are not fully shared. Bilateral relations are difficult, and cooperation remains cautious and not
particularly frank. Having said this, it would be nonsensical for the EU to ignore its Eastern neighbour
on counter-terrorism issues. Terrorists and money flow easily across borders. In addition, Moscow has
a long experience with terrorism. Nonetheless, the EU-Russia partnership remains gridlocked and the
positive spill-over effect from cooperation with member states is still expected. The two sides are often
not on the same page, particularly when it comes to issues such as human rights and the protection of
civil liberties. There is thus a lot of potential, but also many obstacles to deepening cooperation.
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