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The Messenger series EU-Georgia: Yesterday, today, tomorrow

By Marita Sparrer-Dolidze
Tuesday, January 14
The use of information technology to cause disruption or fear among civilians is a newly-emerged form of terror. The term 'cyberterrorism' first appeared in the US Army War College reports in 1998. Today, an awful lot of cybercrime occurs ranging from small scale crimes to illegal cooperation to interfere with political entities’ engagements. The EU legislative body is now taking action against attacks on information technology systems. The EU and other governmental entities together with private corporations have decided to fight cyberterrorism. For instance, Twitter, one of the largest social networks decided to vigorously fight the threat coming from various users encouraging violence. Since summer 2015, the corporation deleted 360, 000 accounts to fight the threat. Reportedly the accounts Twitter removed were related to the ISIS propagandist movement.

The threats coming from the space where people spend a lot of time creates the feeling of insecurity and it damages not only the political power of the EU but its economic strength as well. The case of airline companies is a prominent example: airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, Lufthansa, British Airways and Iberia, claim that ticket sales have previously decreased depending on the perception of terrorism threat plausibility within Europe.

The European Union encourages cooperation on both institutional and national levels to avoid incidents related to terrorist activity. The common belief is shared amongst its citizens too. On the report of the 2015 EU survey Europeans’ Attitudes Towards Security, 97% of the EU residents consider the EU a safe place to live. Yet, when asked what is the most important challenge for them at the moment, roughly half of the respondents (49%) identified terrorism as one of the EU’s central security challenges.

The EU is trying to achieve more security within its member states by collaborating on gathering and sharing information. There is a natural obstacle on the way: effective coordination on information gathering within existing EU agencies is not always easy. Additionally, no enforcement tool can strengthen the idea of the distribution of internal security information within the EU. The process tendencies lean even more towards realistic-politics as terrorism has not always been professed itself as a mutual challenge, but rather an individual threat to the domestic safety of a certain member state. We have seen and we have lived this truth: countries prefer to prioritize national security over common safety when it comes to radical decisions.

The European Union member states heavily rely on cooperation when it comes to fighting terrorist threats. The honor of being the external strategic partner in these cooperation bestows upon the United States of America. Admittedly, since WWII, the scope of the partnership between the US and the EU has been growing. In terms of battling terrorism, the strong partnership aims to collaboratively designate and eliminate terrorist threats worldwide through information sharing systems like the US-EU SWIFT Accord, Passenger Name Data Record, the US – EU Data Privacy Protection Agreement. From the EU side, the PNR agreement is reached not only with the United States but also with Canada and Australia. The objective of the information sharing is to strengthen maritime, aviation and air cargo security and to intensify the counterterrorism competence.

Being the largest European geopolitical entity, the EU must establish a strong connection with international organizations to get involved in the fight against recruiting people to radical groups. The European Union operates along with the United Nations and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. This is not an ultimate measure that can keep people from getting closer to radical terrorist groups. Yet, the persistent effort completed successfully to put to an end to ISIS has set a strong example for many. It seems that the process of perfecting the terrorism elimination within the EU is not stagnant and manages to change the minds of many radicals. Hopefully, the EU will reach beyond its neighborhood and manage to get to the 'soldiers' guarding the doors of the cinemas in Tbilisi, trying to prevent the youth of Georgia to watch a film about a gay couple. Culturally, they are no less scary than those adamant that their mission in life is to put an end to the ‘European sin.’