The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to improve law enforcement cooperation against terrorism both among its 25 member states and with the United States. Washington has largely welcomed these efforts, recognizing that they may help root out terrorist cells and prevent future attacks. However, the United States and the EU continue to face several challenges as they seek to promote closer cooperation in the police, judicial, and border control fields. This report will be updated as needed. For more information, see CRS Report RL31509, Europe and Counterterrorism: Strengthening Police and Judicial Cooperation, by Kristin Archick.
Background on EU Efforts Against Terrorism
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent revelation of Al Qaeda cells in Europe gave new momentum to EU initiatives to combat terrorism and other cross-border crimes. For many years, EU efforts to address such challenges were hampered by national sovereignty concerns, insufficient resources, and a lack of trust among law enforcement agencies. Immediate European efforts following September 11 to track down terrorist suspects and freeze financial assets, often in close cooperation with U.S. authorities, produced numerous arrests, especially in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Germany and Spain were identified as key logistical and planning bases for the attacks on the United States. As a result, European leaders recognized that the largely open borders within the then-15 member EU and Europe's different legal systems enabled some terrorists and other criminals to move around easily and evade arrest and prosecution. (1)
Since the 2001 attacks, the EU has sought to speed up its efforts to harmonize national laws and bring down barriers among member states' law enforcement authorities so that information can be meaningfully shared and suspects apprehended expeditiously. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant, enhanced tools to investigate terrorist financing, and new measures to strengthen external EU border controls. The EU has been working to bolster Europol, its fledgling joint criminal intelligence body, and Eurojust, a new unit charged with improving prosecutorial coordination in cross-border crimes.
The March 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid injected a greater sense of urgency into EU counterterrorism efforts, and gave added impetus to EU initiatives aimed at improving travel document security and impeding terrorist travel. In the wake of the Madrid attacks, the EU also created a new position of Counterterrorist Coordinator. Key among the Coordinator's responsibilities are enhancing intelligence-sharing among EU members and promoting the implementation of already agreed EU anti-terrorism policies, some of which have bogged down in the legislative processes of individual members.
On July 7, 2005, terrorists struck in London with a series of bombs targeting the city's …