Grapperhaus: Terrorist acts in France require alertness across Europe

The Ministers of Justice of the Vendôme Group have held an online meeting in response to the shocking terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice. In the course of this meeting, they agreed that there was an urgent need to strengthen the coordinated European approach to terrorism.

According to Minister of Justice and Security Grapperhaus, ‘The horrible events in France show that we must be and remain alert, both in the Netherlands and in Europe as a whole. Europe must stand together against terrorism and defend democracy.’ During the meeting, Grapperhaus expressed his condolences once again on behalf of the government and stated his view that the European democracies should support each other in the fight against terrorism and extremism. 

The latest threat assessment by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism shows that jihadists continue to see the value of online propaganda, not least because of the potentially large reach of online platforms. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, it is important to tackle this at the European level. 

To start, the Ministers and the European Commission expressed the view that Europe and Eurojust should have a greater role in coordinating cross-border investigations and actions in the field of counterterrorism. They also agreed, among other things, to speed up European legislation obliging providers to remove and counter terrorist content on the Internet. 

‘We have noticed that many social media platforms try to take videos and photos with terrorist messages offline quickly. However, everyone knows how rapidly information can be shared online, so we need to make sure it is deleted permanently. If providers do not do this voluntarily, we should be able to force them,’ says Grapperhaus. For the Netherlands, it is of vital importance that freedom of speech remains protected in the proposal and that proper legal protection is ensured. 

The Ministers and the Commission furthermore want to see effective instruments at the European level to combat hate speech. The Netherlands also called for a focus on European regulations to combat the financing of terrorism and for a debate on the possibilities of gathering evidence from encrypted information.

The Vendôme Group is an informal consultation between the Dutch, Belgian, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Luxembourg Ministers of Justice. On this occasion, European Commissioners Reynders (Justice), Johansson (Home Affairs) and Breton (Internal Market) also joined in. On behalf of the European Parliament, the Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, López Aguilar, was in attendance.