Today's security environment is more complex, less predictable and more quickly evolving than at any time in recent memory. Threats come from a great variety of sources, and manifest themselves in ways which challenge our security frameworks, our institutions and our democracies themselves:
Electoral interference and disinformation campaigns from hostile foreign actors;
Destabilising hybrid operations targeting economies and social structures;
Those coming from outside intending to cause harm, and the “lone wolves” that are radicalised almost overnight on the internet, and resort to do-it-yourself terrorism with knives and trucks. And while we have not had an organised, major terrorist attack since Barcelona in August 2017, we cannot be complacent.
Several attacks have been prevented by our Member States, but too many low-tech attacks were still committed. It is this last threat that is probably the toughest to defend ourselves against. In order to tackle the home-grown, self-radicalised terrorist, we are fighting the battle for ideas. A battle which is much less easy to define, grasp or predict. Where the threat is not perceptible in most cases, until it is too late. But that doesn't mean we cannot prevent them. Information is at the centre of all these challenges – but also our efforts.
First, by eliminating from the web the terrorist content which inspires people to violent extremism, glorifies atrocities or gives advice how to attack us. This is why we have proposed legislation to detect and remove terrorist content online within one hour, and to establish a clear and harmonised legal framework across the EU to prevent the misuse of the internet.
Today, we call on the Council and the Parliament, to urgently move forward on this proposal. In parallel, we will continue to work with internet companies within the voluntary framework of our EU Internet Forum to further reduce terrorist content online.
Secondly: we need the right information at any moment and any place about a potential suspect, including at our external borders. Here we have made enormous progress over the past years, and all the relevant pieces of legislation are either already being prepared for implementation, or waiting to be agreed on and adopted.
Yesterday for example, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System entered into force, paving the way towards full operationalisation in 2021. In parallel, the Entry-Exit System is also being prepared to be operational in 2020. The Schengen Information System (SIS), which has become the most used security database in Europe, will soon be strengthened further when our proposed reforms. It will include the immediate obligation to insert alerts on terrorism, and is expected to be adopted next month.
What is paramount in all these migration, border and security systems is that they talk to each other. I count on the European Parliament and Council to finish their work on interoperability by the end of this year: we have no time to lose, and interoperability can be a game changer for the security of our citizens.
Thirdly: Information is not only crucial in order to prevent threats or attacks against our security, but also to investigate and prosecute. Our proposal to improve the gathering of electronic evidence across borders will also make it easier and quicker to obtain evidence from service providers in other countries, in order to investigate and prosecute crime, including terrorism or cybercrime, in an effective manner.
Here too, we call on the European Parliament and the Council to work on this priority legislative initiative as a matter of urgency.
The grand sum of all these actions is not a reaction to a crisis. It is a paradigm shift. The Security Union we are building is about building trust, sharing resources, and facing threats together. The sheer breadth and depth of the initiatives you see in today's Security Union report is testament to the added value of the European Union for the security of our citizens.
As we get closer to the European elections, this added value needs to be shown and communicated to our citizens. But most importantly: it needs to be adopted and translated into action. I therefore close by reiterating our call to the European Parliament and Council that we have no time to waste, and we need to deliver on the initiatives that will make a real difference to the security of our citizens. Our report today is also a contribution to the discussions on internal security at the European Council next week.