Thursday

25th May 2017

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?

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Macron and Merkel to 'reconstruct' the EU

The French and German leaders will present a common proposal to deepen and strengthen the EU and the eurozone. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. EU to Trump: Defend Western values, not your interests
  2. Nato to join Trump's anti-IS coalition
  3. Trump expected to make Nato pledge
  4. Car-sharing's promise of clean cities
  5. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  6. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  7. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  8. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey