July 25, 2021

“The IS no longer has projection capacity on European soil”

Appointed in 2007 and reached by the age limit, Gilles de Kerchove will give up at the end of August his function of European coordinator of the fight against terrorism. Time for a review.

How do you assess the terrorist threat today?

Europe has significantly reduced its vulnerabilities, but uncertainties remain. Daesh [acronyme arabe de l’organisation Etat islamique] has not completely disappeared, the threat remains complex and diffuse. Fighters are still active in Syria and Iraq, either in the wild or held by Kurdish forces. Other groups are asserting themselves in the Sahel, West and East Africa, Mozambique, Congo, etc. It therefore remains essential to prevent the appearance, on this continent, of a new “caliphate” which could directly threaten Europe.

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However, it is obvious that the Islamic State no longer has its capacity to project terrorists on European soil, which is the result of the action carried out by the international coalition. But there are still isolated actors, with no direct link with the organization.

Far-right terrorism has emerged in several countries. Does Europe seem ready to face this other threat?

I raised this issue three years ago. It obviously does not concern all the member countries but some consider, like Germany, that it is as worrying as jihadism. Although the latter still represents, in my opinion, the main threat, we must be careful. This movement comprises 50 shades of gray but it is federated by the Internet and the theory of great replacement is gaining ground.

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Did the Treaty of Lisbon tighten up your action, which did not decide, in the field of terrorism and intelligence, between national logic and that of the European Union (EU)?

Cooperation between domestic intelligence services has developed considerably since the attack on Charlie Hebdo. They certainly cooperate outside the institutional framework of the Union, but in a structured and coordinated manner. Created after the 2001 attacks, the anti-terrorist group [GAT] offered a forum for exchanges between the various intelligence services, extended to the states associated with the Schengen area. This marked a significant evolution in the culture of these services. The European arrest warrant introduced a fundamental change, by introducing a mechanism from magistrate to magistrate, without political interference.

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