The threat represented by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) requires “more integrated approach” by the EU and the international community “than any other threat before”, Gilles de Kerchove, EU counter-terrorism coordinator, told Foreign Affairs and Security and Defence MEPs on Wednesday.
Military action, support for the new Iraqi government, its army and Peshmergas, putting an end to flows of arms and material, but also communication efforts and a joint approach to the Syrian conflict are all needed to put ISIS down, he stressed.
Mr de Kerchove estimated that over 3000 Europeans “were, are or are willing to go to Syria” as foreign fighters. Their return to Europe is “worrying, because they will get military training, indoctrination, will develop networks with comrades from around the world” and their level of sensitivity to violence will diminish, he said and stressed that getting to Syria is easy, especially via Turkey.
He also called for maximising the cooperation at the EU level and of the group of nine EU member states, led by Belgium and France, in exchange of information on the foreign fighters, but also called for a better use of existing Europol and Eurojust structures. Mr de Kerchove asked the MEPs to support the passenger name record (PNR) legislation, “one of the rare resources we have” in the field of prevention.
Florence Gaub from the EU Institute for Security Studies stressed that the degree of violence had been high in the region even before the arrival of ISIS. “Our level of sensitivity is not the same as on the spot,” she said and argued that ISIS “is the consequence, not the cause of what has been happening in Syria and Iraq. Iraq is where it was born and also where it will die.”
The need to isolate ISIS, namely by cutting it off from its resources, especially from the illegal oil smuggling but also from getting fuel for its fighters, to avoid any perception that the current conflict would be a one between the West and the Muslim world, and to assist Turkey to do more, in spite of its difficult situation, were among other issues raised by the MEPs during the debate.
N.B.: This is an informal message intended to help journalists covering the work of the European Parliament. It is neither an official press release nor a comprehensive record of proceedings.