Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

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?

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • '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.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us