The European Union’s counterterrorism policy can be traced to the early 1970s, when the European Political Cooperation (EPC) came into being. The initial impetus for greater intergovernmental cooperation among Member States was the growth of terrorist incidents perpetrated by indigenous Western European as well as Middle Eastern organizations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the mid-1970s, the European Communities (EC) Member States had become dissatisfied with the existing international policies and procedures which dealt with terrorism and felt that a regional approach would be more effective.
Consequentially, in addition to the diplomatic efforts taken to combat state-sponsored terrorism within the EPC framework, the EC Member States began to develop what could be termed as an EC counterterrorism policy at two key levels: the legal and the operational.
At the legal level, the EC Member States adopted a strategy designed to ensure that the existing international anti-terrorist provisions would be fully applied within the EC. Moreover, since the respective national criminal codes and definitions of terrorism diverged so greatly, “the aim was to inject a degree of predictability into the EC’s public position vis-à-vis terrorism.” To this end, in 1979, the EC Member States negotiated the so-called Dublin Agreement that ensured the Council of Europe’s 1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (ECST) would be applied uniformly within the EC.
The implementation of both the Dublin Agreement and ECST was, however, beset by difficulties as a number of EC Member Sates refused to ratify these agreements, primarily due to concerns over potential loss of autonomy to deal with terrorism either on their own or on bilateral basis. Consequentially, it was not until the mid-1980s when the idea of a European judicial area was seriously entertained under the banner of the completion of single European market.
At the operational level, the TREVI (Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism, and political Violence) Group was established in 1976 as a forum for discussion and cooperation on police and intelligence matters. Within this framework, the justice and interior ministers of EC Member States exchanged intelligence information, compiled a blacklist of terrorists, analyzed external terrorist threats, tracked specific terrorist groups, and facilitated the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. Following a series of terrorist attacks in the mid-1980s, the TREVI Group increased cooperation in combating terrorism even further and a working party was established to study how to improve checks at the European Community’s border, the coordination of national visa policies and the cooperation in combating passport fraud.