U.S. and EU Focus on Evolving Foreign Fighter Threat

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council, in a rare heads-of-government session led by President Obama, adopted a binding resolution calling on all member countries to strengthen their domestic laws and other efforts to prevent the travel of foreign terrorist fighters. The resolution attracted 104 co-sponsors, the second-highest number in the history of the UN Security Council.

Panel on "De-radicalization of Foreign Fighters: Comparing U.S. and EU Practices" at the European Parliament on September 23, 2014. Photo: USEU
Panel on “De-radicalization of Foreign Fighters: Comparing U.S. and EU Practices” at the European Parliament on September 23, 2014. Photo: USEU

In the lead-up to this historic measure, USEU partnered with the European Foundation for Democracy to sponsor a series of events in Brussels on Tuesday focusing on the rapidly-evolving threat posed by foreign fighters. At a standing-room only public discussion at the European Parliament, and in other venues for groups of influential policy-makers, U.S. and European experts shared the results of their research, and their experiences in working with returning foreign fighters and those at risk of recruitment.

President Obama chairs UN Summit on foreign terrorist fighters. Photo: State Department
President Obama chairs UN Summit on foreign terrorist fighters. Photo: State Department

During these conversations, the panelists and attendees compared U.S. and European approaches to preventing foreign fighter recruitment and travel, and dealing with the returnees. Much remains to be done, but awareness-raising events like these, and concrete actions such as those called for in the new UN Security Council Resolution 2178, are essential elements in the international effort to combat terrorism.

I was extremely gratified to see the level of interest in these discussions, especially since one of our most important goals here at USEU is promoting transatlantic understanding and cooperation on important security issues such as this. In fact, we first began examining with the EU the potential threat posed by foreign fighters several years ago. Since then our work with the EU institutions and Member States has become deeper and wider-ranging, involving exchanges at all levels, from local community volunteers to President Obama’s summit meeting with the EU last March. USEU has either initiated or supported dozens of such exchanges, and we will continue working closely with our European partners to enhance security on both sides of the Atlantic, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

By Thomas Rogan, Senior Consular Representative/CVE Officer, U.S. Mission to the European Union

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