The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) welcomes the recognition of the role of mayors in the European Action Plan to help local elected representatives protect public spaces against terrorist attacks. The CoR - the assembly of elected local and regional representatives of the European Union - calls on the European Commission to ensure the continuity of the new fund for supporting transnational projects protecting public spaces. It calls on the Member States, regions and cities to incorporate the protection of public spaces into the infrastructure investment carried out under the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
To help Member States and local authorities protect public spaces, which are increasingly targeted by terrorists (airports, stations, stadiums, market places, etc.), the European Commission adopted a counter-terrorism plan in October 2017 to provide almost EUR 120 million of financial support, foster cooperation between local actors and the private sector and step up the exchange of best practices. Of this funding, EUR 100 million will be allocated through the European Regional Development Fund to municipalities that invest in innovative security solutions.
In an opinion adopted on 4 July, the European Committee of the Regions welcomed the Commission's recognition of the role of local elected representatives in introducing measures to make public spaces less vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
“Mayors are in the front line in preventing attacks and making public spaces safer, be it developing urban infrastructure, raising public awareness or ensuring protection of sporting and cultural events. The Commission's action plan provides indisputable support to help local elected representatives introduce tangible operational measures. However, beyond the physical protection of public spaces, the European plan also needs to focus on preventing radicalisation and promoting inclusion“, stressed the rapporteur, Jean-François Barnier.
Making public spaces safer
As regards funding, the Committee calls on the Commission to simplify access to EU funds for non-state actors, open them up to local authorities of all sizes, and ensure that good links are established with national, regional and local security funding.
It also calls for the new funding from the Internal Security Fund, amounting to EUR 18.5 million for supporting transnational projects to improve the protection of public spaces and cooperation projects, to be ongoing.
The CoR shares the concern that local authorities need to be made aware of the vulnerability of public spaces and supports the call to the Member States, regions and cities to incorporate the protection of public spaces into the infrastructure investment carried out under the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
Forums for exchanging expertise and best practice
The Committee of the Regions supports the creation of a practitioners' forum (law enforcement professionals and police forces) supplemented by a "network of high-risk public spaces" which will provide a platform for joint training and exercises. It calls for representatives of local and regional authorities to be involved in these structures and in the newly-established operators' forum intended to serve as a channel of communication between public authorities and operators.
Following the EU Action Plan, on 8 March 2018 the CoR and the Commission organised an EU Conference of Mayors on Building urban defences against terrorism. Participants included Jean-François Barnier; the French Minister for the Interior, Gérard Collomb; Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Bart Somers, Mayor of Mechelen; Marianne Borgen, Mayor of Oslo; and Torsten Akmann, State Secretary of Berlin.
The conference was an opportunity to learn from the recent attacks, discuss the protection of public spaces and the challenge of preventing radicalisation and identify good practices emerging in EU cities.
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