Europol responds to attacks in Norway by mobilising the EU First Response Network

27 July 2011
News Article
Press Release/News

The police chiefs of seven European countries have accepted an invitation from the Director of Europol to establish an EU First Response Network to provide an integrated operational platform to deal with the aftermath of the recent attacks in Norway.

In the wake of last week’s devastating attacks in Norway, Europol immediately opened its operations centre in The Hague, to connect the Norwegian investigators with an international platform of counter terrorism experts and intelligence analysts.

Through this platform, Europol delivers unique capabilities to its European law enforcement partners including:

•        an international database of terrorist suspects and extremists

•        the ability to track terrorist financing

•        an operational platform to coordinate major international lines of enquiry.

Europol has now agreed with police chiefs from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany,  Poland, Sweden and the UK that this operations centre be expanded to include their senior experts. The team will focus on pursuing a number of international leads that are currently being explored. They will also urgently assess the wider implications of the incidents in terms of the threat from right-wing extremism across Europe.  Experts have already arrived at Europol, with the network holding its first operational meeting today.

“It is important that the full capabilities of the European Union are made available to support the response to the terrible attacks in Norway.  At Europol we are determined to provide the best possible operational support to the Norwegian investigation and to offer a platform for the EU to consider the impact of the incident in terms of the threat to the internal security of the EU,” commented Rob Wainwright, the Director of Europol.

Europol’s Anti-terrorist Unit is manned by more than 50 highly-specialised anti-terrorism experts, who are supported by 100 of Europol’s top intelligence analysts.  

Europol’s daily function is to produce high-quality strategic and operational analysis through unique secure databases and close cooperation with all EU countries and strategic partners.

As part of its responsibility to monitor developments in the threats from terrorism in Europe, Europol produces the annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. The 2011 report, published in March, warned about the increasing levels of professionalism used by right-wing extremists, for example through the use of the internet to spread propaganda, and the use of social media to attract younger people and mobilise a larger community.

At Europol’s recent European Police Chiefs Convention, the future of terrorism was debated by Chiefs of Police and senior law enforcement officers, who produced a set of conclusions to shape future policy for fighting this area of crime. Amongst these, they identified a need for the harmonisation and interconnection of criminal and intelligence databases, as well as the development of a comprehensive strategy for security matters to encompass all types of threats.

Delegates agreed that the changing dynamics in our society, together with technological advances, may encourage isolated, disaffected individuals to turn into violent extremists, with the potential to become ‘lone wolf’ terrorists. Furthermore, they expressed concerns about the rise in anti-immigration and anti-muslim rhetoric, and the possible risk of right-wing extremists reacting towards the number of immigrants entering Europe, especially following recent events in North Africa.

The full set of conclusions from the European Police Chiefs Convention can be downloaded here.

The First Response Network is an EU instrument adopted by the JHA Council of Ministers in 2007 to put on standby a network of dedicated counter-terrorist experts from all EU Member States, ready for mobilisation under Europol’s coordination in the event of a serious attack in Europe.  In such cases, this team will use Europol’s operational centre to ensure efficient information exchange with all involved parties. In addition, the First Response Network aims to provide high-level terrorism experts with strategic advice, tailored to the evolving modus operandi of an attack.