FIRST-LINE INVESTIGATIVE SUPPORT: THE EUROPEAN COUNTER-TERRORISM CENTRE (ECTC)
Recent developments that include the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Berlin, a number of failed, foiled and also completed other attacks, the propaganda videos that have been produced in European languages by IS to call for attacks, and a high number of arrests on suspicion of terrorist activities, show that the terrorist threat towards the EU is high. Even though a further military defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq is expected, the severity of the threat in the EU may even increase. The videos indeed give the impression that IS is increasingly under strain in Syria and Iraq, but at the same time they show a strategy of mobilising lone actors to commit attacks against citizens in countries of the anti-IS coalition .
To ensure an effective response to the constant changing developments in terrorism, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) has been established at Europol, under the authority and direction of the European Council. It builds further on the already established tools and counter terrorism (CT) networks of Europol, but includes a number of new features. These aim at enhancing the CT capabilities and at better facilitating information exchange among CT authorities, to bring cross-border cooperation in this field to a new level.
The ECTC is designed as a central hub in the EU in the fight against terrorism. In fact, it is the single point in the EU where CT operational information from law enforcement from all EU MS, but also from third parties, is brought together for analytical purposes. Specialised teams of CT analysts and experts work on this information to establish the wider EU perspective on CT phenomena for both operational and strategic goals. To ensure efficient information exchange, the ECTC benefits from an excellent network of CT officers throughout the EU and beyond.
The principal task of the ECTC is to provide operational support upon MS’s request for ongoing investigations, such as those following the Paris attacks. The ECTC can assist by cross-checking live operational data with the already available data at Europol, quickly bringing financial leads to light, and by analysing all available investigative details to assist in compiling a structured picture of the terrorist network. In case of a major terrorist event, the ECTC can contribute to the coordinated response. For this purpose different teams are available, often combined with CT experts temporarily seconded from MS, depending on the nature of the event.