France is the terror capital of Europe, suffering 63 of the 152 terrorist attacks in the European Union in 2013. Three people were killed in the attacks and 225 arrests were made for terrorism-related offences.
A Europol report published on Thursday said: “A total of 152 terrorist attacks occurred in five EU Member States. The majority took place in France (63), Spain (33) and the UK (35).”
And in a shocking attempt to make political capital out of the terror statistics, Ceclilia Malmstrom, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, tried to link the rise in terrorism in part to the anti-establishment and anti-immigration movement which returned a record number of eurosceptic members to the European Parliament.
She said that “in times when populist movements and xenophobic winds are sweeping across Europe” it is important to keep in mind that “radicalisation leading to violent terrorism is a gradual process and does not happen overnight.”
Seven people in total were killed in terrorist attacks in the EU last year — three Kurdish women in Paris, a British soldier in London and two members of a far-right extremist group in Athens, according to the Local.
In 2013, 535 individuals were arrested for terrorism-related offences in the EU. Court proceedings for terrorism charges were concluded in relation to 313 individuals.
“After an increase in 2012, the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 fell below the number recorded in 2011,” the report said.
However, Europol warned: “In the wake of the Syrian conflict, the threat to the EU is likely to increase exponentially. European fighters, who travel to conflict zones, are assessed as posing an increased threat to all EU member states on their return.”
“There is no overall official figure available regarding EU citizens travelling to take part in the conflict in Syria, but estimates suggest that, by the end of 2013, they numbered between 1,200 and 2,000. Although depending on the developments in Syria, this number might possibly increase during 2014.”
The largest proportion of terrorist attacks in the EU was related to separatist groups, Europol said. However, most separatist incidents “were small-scale. The majority of EU member states continue to consider religiously inspired terrorism as a major threat, as evidenced by the significant increase in the number of arrests. Two attacks and several disrupted plots in 2013 illustrate this threat.”