Friday

23rd Feb 2018

EUobserved

EU parliament's fading welcome

  • Visitors to the EU parliament are welcome during the annual Open Day. The rest of the year, the experience may be different (Photo: European Parliament)

Two years ago on Friday (7 October) a group of Kurdish protesters stormed the Brussels building of the European Parliament, overwhelming security forces and raising questions about the institution's safety.

The Kurdish protest was peaceful, but MEPs wondered: what if they had had guns?

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 'For your own safety, wear your badge', as if guards have the mandate to shoot those without a badge. (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Efforts to prevent such a scenario, have led to a situation where the only EU body with directly elected members gives the least inviting welcome of the three major EU institutions.

Following the incident, the parliament decided to beef up security. The Paris attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in January 2015 reinforced the feeling of necessity.

But while the original Kurdish activists said around 150 of them had stormed the building and between 50 and 60 managed got in, their mythical numbers had swollen eight months later during the parliament committee debate about the building's security.

“Three hundred Kurdish demonstrators managed to burst through the doors because the doors couldn't withstand the physical pressure of their charge”, German centre-right MEP Monika Hohlmeier said.

And while Hohlmeier said the new security strategy was “not meant to look like we are all barricaded in”, visitors cannot help but feel like a fortress-like entrance is exactly what has been built.

Anyone regularly visiting the buildings of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the EU Council – where member states meet – will notice that the security screening in the parliament is most tight, but also the most fickle.

The past year, this reporter has noticed security requirements changing sometimes overnight.

In February for example, security officers asked to take off a jacket, but the next day did not.

In April this reporter was suddenly asked to take off a belt for the first time – even though the metal detector did not detect it – but it was not until two months later that guards started requesting this more regularly.

“Even if it doesn't make a sound, we are instructed to ask you to take off your belt,” one of the guards said.

However, some of his colleagues were less cooperative when asked why one had to take off a belt that was not registered by the detector.

“I can explain why, but I don't want to”, he said.

Then, in September, a guard asked to remove the laptop's sleeve, before it went through the screening.

You seem to come up with new requirements every day, the journalist noted.

“No, it's always been like this since I've been here”, the response was.

But the next days the laptop was allowed to enter hidden in its sleeve.

There are good reasons for the parliament to have the most tight security of the three institutions. Once you are in, you can roam freely in the entire building, unlike in the commission and council.

But the issue is broader than just the negative effect the parliament's security screening has on the author's mood.

The inconsistency means either of the following two.

One: laptop sleeves and belts are indeed a potential terrorist hazards, but there is a large chance you can get them through security unnoticed.

Two: the items are harmless, but visitors to the parliament are unnecessarily bothered to create a false sense of security, which leads to needlessly long queues.

A recent busy day saw the wait taking 4.5 minutes. If you multiply that by the number of visitors to the parliament – sometimes as much as 10,000 – there is a massive loss of efficiency and potential labour activity.

The EU parliament, like other institutions and most member states, has been convinced by the security frame.

Take the banners one can see in the hallway, nudging employees to wear their identification badge.

“For your own safety, wear your badge at all times when on Parliament premises”, the text says.

But this is a logical fallacy.

Someone's objective safety is not linked to the parameter of wearing a badge or not – unless security guards have the mandate to shoot those without a badge.

The only difference is that others may feel more safe when everyone around them wears badges.

This sense of security may also improve for those who are reassured by uniforms.

The institutions, later this month, are set to approve the employment of 35 additional security agents in the European Parliament, because "recent terror attacks have led the Union institutions to review their security needs".

Let's hope that the increase in staff also leads to an increase in efficiency and coordination.

EP to spend €8mn extra on security

A group of Kurdish demonstrators was able to storm the building last year. To prevent that from happening again, the EP will install three "defence lines".

EU parliament robbery was 'inside job,' officials say

Gun-wielding thieves have struck the European Parliament again, the third such attack in two years, this time hitting the post office. Individuals close to the investigation say they are "convinced" it is an inside job.

UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit

Britain wants to negotiate with Brussels the end date of the Brexit transition period - without saying what their preferred end date would be. The UK's position paper disagrees with the EU on other key points too.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  2. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  3. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  4. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  5. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  6. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  7. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  8. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  2. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  3. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  4. European far-right political party risks collapse
  5. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  6. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  7. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  8. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?