On June 20 and 21, the annual seminar on counter-terrorism, organised by Eurojust, took place. This year, Mr François Molins, District Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Paris, Mr Frédéric Van Leeuw, Federal Prosecutor of Belgium, and Ms Joëlle Milquet, Special Advisor to the President of the European Commission on the support to victims of terrorist attacks, participated in the discussions.
The conference focussed on two themes: the judicial response to persons returning to Europe from the combat zones in Iraq and Syria, and the support to victims of terrorist attacks.
A joint declaration by the Ministers of Justice of France, Germany, Belgium and Spain was distributed in the margins of the conference. It called for the reinforcement of the sharing of information with Eurojust on current investigations and convictions for terrorist offences.
Given the persistent terrorist threat that concerns the whole of the European territory, strong cooperation between judicial authorities within the European Union is actually indispensable. The Ministers call for the creation of a European Judicial Counter-Terrorism Register, that will make it possible to proactively establish possible links between cases and to identify coordination needs for the investigations. The legal basis for working together is already in place, which should be systematically applied in all Member States.
Mr François Molins said: The quality of judicial cooperation in criminal matters is a big challenge. We cannot work in silos in our countries anymore. We need an overall approach. To strengthen and bolster judicial cooperation, we need to go through Eurojust, the only European agency able to do that. […] Sharing information is also a major challenge in cooperation. Centralisation of information allows us to double-check it proactively and coordinate actions upstream. The more we share, the better we are able to intervene and distribute the workload between Member States in a smarter way.
Intensive coordination of the investigations after the Paris terrorist attacks
Between 2014 and 2017, there was a sixfold increase (from 14 to 87) in terrorist cases registered at Eurojust, including following the terrorist attacks on the Thalys train, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Stockholm and Barcelona. Those cases are not only larger in number but also growingly complex and, in contrast to terrorism investigations before 2014, involve many different States.
For example, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis on 13 November 2015, Eurojust opened a case that, in addition to France, involved another 14 Member States and the USA. Numerous coordination meetings have since been held in Austria, Paris and The Hague. The collaboration uncovered possible links between the investigations into the attacks in Paris and other terrorism cases. As a result, two suspects arrested in Austria and one detained in Germany were successfully surrendered to the French authorities