On September 11 2001, the deadliest attack in US history killed nearly 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000 when hijacked passenger flights crashed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
We honour the memory of those who lost their lives on this day, 20 years ago. The victims of terrorism are not forgotten. I express my heartfelt sympathy to the American people, especially those who lost their loved ones in the attacks. Terror attacks are attacks against us all.
9/11 marked a turn in history. It fundamentally changed the global political agenda – for the first time ever, NATO invoked Article 5, allowing its members to respond together in self-defense, and it launched the war against Afghanistan.
20 years on, terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and Da’esh remain active and virulent in many parts of the world, for example in the Sahel, Middle East and Afghanistan. Their attacks have caused thousands of victims around the world, enormous pain and suffering. They attempt to destroy lives, damage communities and change our way of life. Seeking to destabilise countries as a whole, they prey in particular on fragile societies, but also our Western democracies and the values we stand for. They remind us that terrorism is a threat we live with every day.
Now, as then, we stand determined to fight terrorism in all its forms, anywhere. We stand in admiration, humility and gratitude to those who risk their lives to protect us from this threat and to those who respond in the aftermath of attacks.
Our counter-terrorism experience has taught us that there are no easy answers, or quick fixes. Responding to terrorism and violent extremism by force and military might alone will not help to win hearts and minds. The EU has therefore taken an integrated approach, addressing the root causes of violent extremism, cutting off terrorists’ financing sources and curbing terrorist content online. Five EU security and defence missions around the world are mandated to contribute to the fight against terrorism. In all our efforts, we commit to protect innocent lives, our citizens and our values, as well as uphold human rights and international law.
The recent events in Afghanistan oblige us to rethink our approach, working with our strategic partners, such as the United States and through multilateral efforts, including with the United Nations, the Global Coalition to Defeat Da’esh and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF).
On this day, we should not forget that the only way forward is to stand united and firm against all who seek to damage and divide our societies. The EU will continue to work together with the United States and all its partners to make this world a safer place.