Local TD Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, speaking at the EU summit of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Riga, Latvia called for a “concerted, comprehensive and sustained” response to the worrying rise in radicalisation and the terrorist threat facing the European Union which estimates indicate could be as high as 5,000 EU citizens becoming “foreign fighters”.
Speaking at the meeting Minister Fitzgerald said: “The recent terrorist attacks in Paris are a particularly shocking manifestation of what is the greatest security threat facing the Union today. This threat is evolving in new and disturbing ways".
The Minister expressed her sympathy to the French people and said that the recent events in Paris and the subsequent striking affirmation of democratic values had touched millions of people.
The Minister said that at the heart of the terrorist threat is radicalisation. “The spread of radicalisation across the European Union is a cause for great concern. The values and democratic principles that lie at the heart of the Union and of each Member States are at threat from this phenomenon. I urge the Member States to work more closely to counter this threat and the heinous acts of terrorism it gives rise to. We must be resolute in our collective response.”
Minister Fitzgerald observed that one of the more unfortunate consequences of the internet era was the ease with which it facilitated the spread of radicalisation. Addressing EU colleagues the Minister emphasised the collective responsibility of EU States “to harness that same power to stem the spread of this evil narrative and promote a positive counter message” and called on the Social Media providers to work together in partnership with governments, law enforcement authorities, civil society and the EU institutions.
Minister Fitzgerald stressed that law enforcement and intelligence agencies must have the full suite of tools necessary to address the threat of international terrorism. In particular, the Minister cited the urgent need for an EU-wide database of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data as a means of tracking the travel arrangements of suspected terrorists.
The Minister added: “Counter-terrorism measures must, of course, strike an appropriate balance between personal privacy and public safety. That balance, however, cannot reasonably be said to encompass the privacy of terrorists plotting attacks on our citizens.”
Minister Fitzgerald also referred to the illegal importation and trade of dangerous firearms as one of the most worrying aspects of Europe’s black economy, the consequences of which can be devastating. The Minister emphasised that concerted cooperation within the EU and with third countries is vital for tackling this scourge.