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Most commonly, terrorists have used explosives to inflict casualties and damage. Home-made explosives, fabricated from certain easily accessible chemical precursors, are a preferred tool for perpetrators of terrorist attacks. The Europol TE-SAT reports indicate that these continue to pose a serious threat to the EU. Therefore, the Commission's efforts concentrate on ensuring greater security of explosives, bomb-making equipment and technologies that contribute to the perpetration of terrorist acts.

EU Action Plan on the security of explosives


While the usefulness of explosives for industrial purposes is beyond doubt, policy-makers must reduce the possibility of their misuse for terrorist purposes to ensure the security of citizens. This can only be achieved through the active contribution of all stakeholders at EU, national and industry level. This rationale formed the basis of the 2008 EU Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives (PDF). The Action Plan contains 48 measures related to prevention, detection and response, as well as horizontal measures, such as the development of information sharing mechanisms and platforms, supporting research and working with partners both in and outside the EU. A review of the EU Action Plan was undertaken in 2012. An overview of its implementation by the Member States and EU bodies is provided in the 2012 Progress Report on the Implementation of the EU Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives (PDF).

The Stockholm Programme (PDF) emphasised the need to implement the Action Plan and to provide better information on the security of explosives. In addition, it called for the development of a legislative framework to address the dangers associated with the use of chemical precursors in explosives. On 2 September 2014, Regulation (EU) No 98/2013 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors (PDF) entered into force with a view to enhancing protection of citizens from the threat of terrorism.

The future policy approach to improving the security of explosives is set out in the May 2014 Communication on a new EU approach to the detection and mitigation of CBRN-E risks (PDF). The revised approach is the first step towards implementing the Council conclusions adopted in December 2012 (PDF), which encouraged the Commission to create a new CBRNE Agenda identifying and using synergies between the Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives and the EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Action Plan of 2009. The new Communication sets key priorities to be addressed at EU level and proposes a number of practical actions to bring about progress in the area of detection and mitigation of CBRN-E risks.

EU Legislation on explosives precursors

The Regulation (EU) No 98/2013 on the marketing and use of explosives precursors established a tighter regulatory regime for high-risk chemical explosives precursors, to reduce their accessibility to the general public (private individuals). In addition, the Regulation introduced the obligation for economic operators to report any suspicious transactions involving both the restricted precursors and other non-restricted substances which are also considered of concern.

On 17 April 2018, the Commission adopted a Security Package, which included a proposal for a revision of Regulation 98/2013 (PDF). The proposal aims to further limit terrorists and criminals' access to explosives precursors by closing security gaps and strengthening restrictions and controls.

Reducing risks

Work on reducing the risk of misuse of certain chemicals to fabricate home-made explosives is carried out within the Standing Committee on Precursors (SCP). The SCP has already contributed to the amendment of the Limitations Directive (now incorporated into the REACH legislation) that reduced access to highly concentrated ammonium nitrate fertilisers, which have been misused to produce home-made explosives. In addition, the SCP assists the Commission in its work to further reduce the risks related to the misuse of precursors. The Action Plan promotes other preventive measures, such as the tightening of security along the entire supply chain of commercial explosives in the EU, including in production, transport, storage, commercialisation and final use.

An expert working group consisting of representatives from national security institutions and EU bodies has been set up to deal with the specific issue of detecting explosives and their precursor chemicals. It develops relevant detection scenarios to identify possible technology gaps.