European integration and the race to the top in counterterrorist regulations

Mariaelisa Epifanio (University of Liverpool)

The threat of international terrorism encourages governments to enact policies that make domestic targets less attractive for terrorist groups. Mariaelisa Epifanio and Thomas Plümper argue that governments’ counterterrorist policies not only put pressure on domestic civil rights – they can also have detrimental effects on the respect for civil liberties abroad. As effective counterterrorist measures render some countries less viable targets, terrorist groups face incentives to focus their attention on places where less restrictive policies are in place. To avoid being targeted, this dynamic induces governments to outbid each other in an effort to implement effective counterterrorist regulations, often on the back of a deteriorating respect for civil liberties. In their article “European integration and the race to the top in counterterrorist regulations” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Mariaelisa and Thomas find evidence that the EU’s supranational counterterrorism strategy mitigated EU member states’ competition over restrictive counterterrorism policy by providing a common minimum standard of regulations. Comparing government responses to terrorist threats in EU member states with counterfactual, Western non-EU states, Mariaelisa and Thomas show that prior to 2008, EU governments had implemented substantively fewer counterterrorism measures than their comparable non-EU counterparts. Challenging accounts generally associating European integration with a proliferation of regulations, evidence from their analysis suggests that the EU’s supranational response to the threat of international terrorism “may lead to a harmonization of counterterrorist regulations and breaks the regulatory spiral that pushes counterterrorist policies upwards.”