On June 7, the European Council approved two sets of conclusions dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic —one on internal security and a second on the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism.
The conclusions acknowledge the unpredictable threats and challenges that the crisis posed to the internal security landscape. Focusing on making better use of existing means of cooperation and building upon established structures, the Council urged member states to identify practical solutions to prevent difficulties to strategical operational and tactical cross-border law enforcement cooperation.
It further underlined the need to prevent the infiltration of criminal networks in the implementation of the Next Generation EU and encouraged CEPOL (EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training) and member states to develop scenario-based training and practical exercises to ensure preparedness and resilience for future pandemics and other crises.
Part of its internal security strategy, the Council counts on the Commission to support Europol and the innovation lab to set up a common, resilient and secure instrument for communications in the EU law enforcement cooperation framework. As for cyberwarfare, the Council advised member states to develop and promote awareness campaigns for their citizens to prevent the impact of cybercrime activities, as well as misinformation and hate speech.
Terrorism and violent extremism
So far the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the terrorist threat seems to have been limited. However, the protracted pandemic may increase member states’ vulnerabilities and the risks of radicalisation, the Council said.
However, the online presence of extremist groups is on the rise since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to COVID-19, counter-terrorism authorities have had to increasingly rely on online capabilities rendering/making their work more difficult.
In the medium to long term, the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences may prove to be a favourable breeding ground for extremist narratives. Some (violent) far-left, far-right and Islamist extremist groups have already incorporated COVID-19 into their narratives, and this might pose security challenges in the medium and long term.