Overview: Spain continued to confront the dual threat posed by the domestic terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and violent extremists affiliated with al-Qa'ida and its affiliates. Buoyed by strong international cooperation, in particular with France, Spain enjoyed such success in battling ETA, whose aim is to create an independent Basque state, that the weakened terrorist group announced it would halt "offensive actions." Meanwhile, Spain's attention often focused on the fate of the three Spanish aid workers kidnapped by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb in late 2009 and released in 2010.

Spain cooperated closely with the United States to counter terrorism. In April, Attorney General Holder signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Spain to share information and further strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. Also in April, the U.S-Spain Agreement to Prevent and Combat Serious Crime, which was signed in 2009, also went into force.

As part of its effort to help close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Spain publicly announced its decision to accept five former detainees for resettlement, three of whom have been resettled.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: The Spanish Parliament passed a series of reforms to the country's Penal Code regarding terrorism to better equip the Spanish judiciary to face several realities of violent extremists operating in Spain. The new changes acknowledge that violent extremists in Spain may be inspired by but operate independently of formal terrorist groups such as al-Qa'ida. The reforms criminalized activities such as recruitment, indoctrination, terrorist training, and the facilitation of such activity by sending recruits to training camps. Furthermore, they criminalized the public distribution of messages that are likely to "increase the risk" of others joining a terrorist group or association or perpetrating terrorist attacks. Finally, the new reforms established the financing of terrorism as its own crime.

Spain took steps to improve security and the detection of false documents at its borders. Spain introduced an automated system to read EU passports with biometric data at its two largest airports. Select border control areas have the capacity to scan fingerprints in real time. In July, Spain announced that it would begin testing full-body scanners in one of its airports. Spain deployed a network of radar stations, known as the Integrated External Surveillance System, along its maritime borders. Spain continued its participation in the Megaports and Container Security Initiatives.

Spanish security forces arrested 12 suspected violent extremists, one of whom was accused of managing one of the most influential terrorist websites in the world. In December, police arrested seven suspects (six Pakistanis and one Nigerian) in the greater Barcelona area for allegedly providing false documents, including passports, to terrorist groups. The Spanish police cooperated with the security services in Thailand, where authorities simultaneously detained another three suspects.

In cooperation with international partners, security services also arrested 113 alleged ETA members or associates, including 22 in France and nine in other countries. Spain also arrested 11 individuals for ETA-inspired street violence. Key raids included Spanish cooperation with Portuguese forces in January, when they shut down a large-scale bomb factory and arms cache that ETA had established in Portugal. Spain also arrested an embryonic ETA cell in Catalonia that same month. In February, a joint operation in France resulted in the detention of ETA's latest suspected military leader, whose alleged successor and the successor's would-be replacement were both captured in May during another raid in France.

Spain's judicial system investigated allegations of ETA training camps in Venezuela. In February, a National Court investigating judge issued an arrest warrant for an official in the Venezuelan government. Two ETA suspects arrested in September confessed to having received training from that same official in Venezuela during 2008. (It is not clear whether these individual actions reflect official Venezuelan government support for ETA.)

Countering Terrorist Finance: Spain was a member of the G8 Counterterrorism Action Group and provided technical assistance to other countries to counter terrorist financing. Spain exercised leadership in the Financial Action Task Force to combat money laundering and to take the necessary steps to prevent its financial institutions from engaging in transactions or relationships in support of terrorist activity. In April, Spain enacted Law 10/2010 on Preventing Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism.

The government diligently implemented the relevant UNSCRs and has the legal authority to impose autonomous designations.

After the European Parliament voted down an interim agreement on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, the Spanish EU Presidency helped secure support for a revised version, which came into effect shortly after the completion of the Spanish presidency. As EU President, Spain hosted numerous conferences and workshops to foster greater international cooperation to confront terrorism, including a U.S-EU workshop on countering terrorist finance.

Regional and International Cooperation: As EU President during the first half of 2010, Spain worked to advance a number of counterterrorism initiatives. In January, weeks after the attempted December 25, 2009 attack on Northwest Flight 253 bound for Detroit, Spain hosted a key meeting of Justice and Home Affairs ministers and helped secured the passage of the "Toledo Resolution" to increase U.S.-EU aviation security. Spain also successfully promoted the EU's adoption of an Internal Security Strategy and built support for strengthening cooperation and information sharing among European counterterrorism coordination centers. Spain signed the Beijing Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation and the Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft at the conclusion of an International Civil Aviation Organization diplomatic conference in September.

Spain was active in efforts to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. President Zapatero attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, which promoted international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism. Spain assumed a leading role in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and in June was elected to serve as Coordinator of its Implementation and Assessment Group, a working group of technical experts.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Spain participated in several international meetings to counter violent extremism and, in its capacity as EU President, hosted a seminar on de-radicalization. Spain's inter-ministerial countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy emphasizes the prevention of radicalization and seeks to counter radical propaganda both online and in other arenas. In addition to promoting international cooperation on these issues, Spanish efforts to counter radicalization are tied closely to the fight against illegal immigration. This strategy seeks the support of civil society and the general public in rejecting violence and extremism. In fulfillment of applicable laws, Spanish penitentiaries employ CVE rehabilitation programs designed to achieve the reintegration of inmates into society.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.