EU Counter-terrorism Policy And Human Rights

Are we on the right track? 1

Authored by: Milena Costas Trascasas

The Routledge Handbook of European Security Law and Policy

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138609990
eBook ISBN: 9780429465918
Adobe ISBN:


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In the post-9/11 context, the European Union (EU) plays a major role in the implementation of the global counter-terrorism strategy. With a view to coordinating the concerted responses of its Member States, the organization has taken a very proactive stand in proposing common legislation and in identifying new areas where increased cooperation could enhance the Union’s security. As a result, today, the EU has developed a vast and complex arsenal of legal instruments, programmes and restrictive measures directly impacting on individual rights and freedoms. In this context, the swift passing of counter-terrorism measures contrasts with the lack of progress towards an enhanced human rights protection framework. The frequent intervention of the EU Court of Justice to annul measures in cases challenging existing legislation suggests a systematic failure in the assessment of the human rights impact of EU policy in this field. There is also an evident democratic deficit in the oversight of counter-terrorism measures and a lack of accountability for major human rights violations committed by Member States while fighting against terrorism. All these issues raise the question of whether the EU is giving a proper weight to human rights concerns. The relevance of human rights compliance and mainstreaming throughout all its policies and actions is formally acknowledged, but practice shows that steps taken in that direction are not sufficient. Without an adequate assessment of the real threat posed by terrorism, and due consideration of fundamental rights, the capacity of EU policy and legislative proposals to attain its objectives is in question. Furthermore, the trend towards a major “securitization” of Europe through a “pre-emptive” approach may, in the long run, bring irreparable damage to the European project.

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