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Nottingham Trent University

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How studying international relations can help you to learn about combatting terrorism in Europe

The nature of threats to national security in Europe have changed over time. Like elsewhere in the world, many European countries have experienced insecurity linked to ideological extremism and radicalisation. Contemporary forms of terrorism now span European borders, which has in turn mobilised security forces in different countries to act as one.

With its focus on transnational interests, the study of international relations has never been more pertinent for those looking to strengthen European security, as we explore here.

Navigating the overlap between international security forces

In the past, terror attacks in Europe were largely carried out by relatively small separatist groups acting independently of each other. Today, as Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) says, “the phenomenon is now far more transnational in nature. Terrorists form networks, exchange funds and information across borders, and can live in one European country, perpetrate an attack in a second and hide in a third.” 

Boundaries between internal and external security jurisdictions have become blurred as terrorist activities and actors move across country lines. With terrorism becoming more ‘international’, Europe has responded with the introduction of new more cooperative policies and strategies, as well as moving towards a shared definition of terrorism.

Since 2005, the European Union (EU) has worked to a collaborative counter-terrorism strategy, built on four pillars – prevent, protect, pursue and respond. As the first pillar, preventing further threats is the top priority, which involves exploring the causes of contemporary terrorism and radicalisation. These objectives form an organisational structure that EU member states can use to coordinate their efforts against threats to their security, alongside other countries doing the same.

As a field of study, international relations can offer an invaluable insight into the intricacies of a transnational Europe and how it’s working to challenge terrorism and radicalisation. Learning how to navigate the complex interplay of social, political and economic systems at work in different countries can help you gain a deeper understanding of the counter-terrorism approaches created to enhance security both nationally and on a European level.

Exploring Europe’s developing security measures

Following on from the events of recent decades, the EU and European governments are continuing to collaborate on a range of counter-terrorism initiatives and strategies.

The creation of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), obligating EU member states to arrest and transfer criminal suspects or sentenced persons on each other’s behalf, was expedited after 9/11 to become EU legislation in 2004. A year later, the EU Council created the EU counter-terrorism strategy built on the four pillars mentioned above, which “recognises the importance of cooperation with third countries and international institutions”.

Europol, whose principal aim is “to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens”,  became the official EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation in 2010. In 2016, Europol established the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) in order to focus on the most current forms and facilitators of terrorism and radicalisation across borders, including intelligence sharing, financing, arms trafficking and online propaganda.    

Through the study of international relations, you’ll delve into the work of organisations like these and explore how interconnected political dialogues, cooperation clauses and aligned responses are vital to the continuing fight against terrorism across borders.

Gain a unique perspective on European security

Organisations and taskforces like the ones above need individuals who recognise the need for transnational cooperation and solidarity in Europe. An international relations degree can help you grasp this importance and think critically about the roles and responsibilities of different actors involved in European security processes, such as governments, the media, the EU and its citizens.

By examining European international relations in detail, you’ll gain a grasp of the wider historical context in which current security and counter-terrorism narratives lie, giving you skills and knowledge that will only become more valuable over time.

With a module dedicated to Security, Radicalisation and Terrorism in Europe, our Online Master of Arts in International Relations is ideal preparation for a role within domestic or international policy-making, governance or within a large organisation like the EU or Europol. This course has real-world application and provides a strong foundation from which to embark on an active and relevant international career.

Discover more about how our Online MA International Relations could create opportunities in contemporary global affairs for you by requesting more information.