One of the hottest topics in corporate international security currently is the potential impact of ISIS on European security. Over the past several months, international corporate security experts have examined the terrorist threat posed by ISIS in Europe. These experts are particularly concerned with radicalized European Muslims who have joined ISIS on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. In fact, EUROPOL estimates that approximately 5,000 European born fighters have taken up the Islamic State’s banner, joining ISIS operations throughout the Middle East. At face value, this number represents a concerning issue for European Muslims trying to counter prejudice and European leaders who are trying to maintain security and avoid civil strife.

ISIS, Terrorism, and Europe: An International Security Perspective

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For the European Union, there are two concerns. On the one hand, returning ISIS terrorists could organize activities in Europe while escaping detection. After all, European born ISIS veterans can easily traverse the continent on a EU passport. On the other hand, the wars in the Middle East are driving a refugee crisis at Europe’s doorstep. The number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, fleeing the unrest, has risen from 60,000 to 200,000 in 2014. This influx is straining the capacity of national governments and raising concerns that ISIS terrorists could be moving with the refugees. Obviously, if ISIS were to employ this means of infiltration the results could be devastating, both for the Europeans and the beleaguered refugees.

In addition to the terrorist threat, the rapid expansion of ISIS and accompanying propaganda represents a significant political and security challenge to the European Union. For the last eighteen months, the EU has been attempting to craft a master security plan. Unfortunately, each country represented has unique concerns, making a uniform plan difficult to craft. For example, Germany would like a thorough examination of documents and passports, but other countries feel that this would create long wait times at the border. Even so, some European countries have adopted their own measures, punishing those citizens who fought with ISIS. A notable example is Ireland’s recently enacted counter terror laws, which levy ten years against individuals found to be promoting terrorism.

Within the context of international corporate security, it has become evident that European leaders and security officials must adapt to the ISIS threat. On the heels of ISIS’s sustained success in Libya, ISIS propagandists have stated that their recent gains provide them with the foothold they need to “invade” Europe. Although full-scale invasion is outside ISIS’s capabilities, the group’s seizure of parts of the Libyan coast does provide ISIS with a strategic foothold. This shoreline has long been used as an embarkation point for masses of immigrants, and could be used by ISIS as a staging point.

Clearly then, the ISIS threat to Europe has become a large, yet still growing concern. What are European officials to do? Moderate success can be attributed to new, more stringent, counter-terror laws and increased security cooperation. However, even more must be done to strengthen cooperation within the EU and NATO. Furthermore, given the ISIS presence in Libya, northern EU countries need to do more to help manage the refugee flows in the Mediterranean as well as stand ready to counter further ISIS gains in North Africa. Finally, EU security officials need to find a way to monitor internal radicals, while at the same time reaching out and working with their Muslim minority populations­—a difficult needle to thread indeed.

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The IMG Group is a leading international corporate security firm, with considerable experience in employee travel security and executive protection. Corporate or business organizations concerned about their need for international corporate security solutions can reach out to the IMG Group for assistance. The company’s expert security consultants provide services such as employee security, VIP and executive protection, risk and threat assessments, workplace violence prevention, protective services, crisis management planning, and more.

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