Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Opinion

Why Europe should avoid terror overreach

  • Welcoming refugees is a strategic demonstration of European (and American) willingness to care for the victims of ISIS terror. (Photo: Freedom House)

Nearly a month after the horrific attacks in Paris, last week’s terrorist shootings in California underscored the very real threat that ISIS-inspired violence poses in Europe and North America.

In the US, calls for refugee bans and Muslim registers reflect panic and political posturing. But Europe, which for long proudly distanced itself from the US “global war on terrorism,” is now following a similar dark path.

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.

Not surprisingly, France’s President Hollande, backed by Parliament, has led the charge.

He used the language of “war” to introduce a state of emergency authorising the security services to raid and search homes, close bars and theatres, forbid meetings, place people under house arrest and dissolve organisations deemed a threat to “public order.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who called for the closure of mosques “where hate is preached,” warned that “it is necessary to move fast and hard.”

The French people agree. Just this past Sunday (6 December), the National Front won a resounding victory in the first-round of regional elections, on the back of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric designed to exploit many voters’ insecurity.

France is not alone. Belgium’s Prime Minister Michel has pressed Parliament to pass tough measures to imprison citizens returning home from fighting in Syria and to broaden law enforcement’s ability to tap phones and detain terrorism suspects for three days without charges. He called for shutting down web sites that advocate Islamic holy war.

The recent discovery that Salah Abdesalam, a former Brussels resident who is the only known survivor among the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, had made two trips to Budapest in the weeks before, will bolster concerns that jihadists are hiding among Syrian refugee flows.

True to form, Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban declared that the “number one job” after Paris is “to defend the borders and to control who is coming in.”

But that is precisely the wrong response. Closing the door on refugees feeds the ISIS narrative that the West callously ignores Muslim suffering.

Welcoming refugees is a strategic demonstration of European (and American) willingness to care for the victims of ISIS terror.

Overreach

We have seen similar overreach before. After the 9/11 attacks, the US put hundreds of men, mostly Muslims, in American jails on immigration charges, suspected of being involved in the attacks. They were not. Muslim communities across the country were alienated by misguided policies of targeted surveillance and ethnic and religious profiling.

For a long time, European officials were reluctant to go down that path. Even after the Charlie Hebdo killings this past January, Prime Minister Valls warned that France suffered from “territorial, social, ethnic apartheid.”

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, said, “No freedom should be abandoned...I do not support fundamental legislative change.” Otherwise, he said, “we give justification to those coming to fight on our land.”

But the political winds have shifted.

It may be that some of the new measures will yield critical intelligence or halt plots under way – French police have reportedly disrupted one terror group and seized weapons. But in seeking to address the threat of terrorist violence, as they must, European leaders should not forget common sense or the lessons of past experience.

First, many suspects in recent terrorist attacks were not unknown to the authorities. Rather, law enforcement lacked the resources to keep them all under round-the-clock surveillance, or to act in timely fashion on alerts from partner governments.

Adding trained personnel and improving cross-border coordination might contribute more than new legal powers.

Second, the risk of terrorist violence cannot be eradicated; it can and must be minimised. But terrorism preceded the rise of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and it will likely outlast them both. Enduring solutions cannot be premised on “emergency” measures that create constitutional exceptions.

Finally, it would be a huge mistake to allow Muslims to be stigmatised.

Stigmatising Muslims

Subjecting large numbers of innocent people to intrusive stops, searches and arrests risks antagonising communities whose support is needed to detect and apprehend violent extremists.

It provides propaganda tools for the very organisations that pose real threats, and may also increase the pool of potential terrorists by exacerbating factors widely identified as root causes of radicalisation, such as a sense of humiliation, exclusion and injustice.

On Friday, Scotland Yard reported a tripling of Islamophobic attacks in London since the Paris attacks, from the previous average of 24 a week to over 70.

Some politicians recognise this. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, recently stressed the importance of developing positive relations with Muslim communities. Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin argues that preventing radicalisation requires "dealing with the fertile soil of exclusion, discrimination and poverty that can be found in some of our urban areas."

And yet, as the past two weeks have again shown, political authorities are drawn to publicly visible tactics even when they have little proven impact.

Expansive laws and policing powers created for counter-terrorism may slip into other fields, such as migration control, organised crime or drug enforcement. Since 9/11, the most common result of many counter-terror actions in the EU has been the detention of undocumented migrants.

Fear and anger, though understandable, are not a sound basis for policy. Terrorism feeds on the despair born of stunted opportunity and inequality. Overreaction, just what terrorists seek to provoke, fosters further division.

Ultimately, the best protection against the ideology of terror is unwavering defence of the rule of law.

James A. Goldston is the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Paris attacks merit EU security review

It's easy, but wrong, to blame immigration for the Paris attacks. The security loopholes which made them possible are the fault of EU leaders and can be fixed.

How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?

Russian domestic television - the only source of foreign news for most Russians - consistently shows Europe over-run by immigrants, beset by terrorist atrocities, and on strike. This has serious consequences.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. EU in race to set global AI ethics standards
  2. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  3. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ
  4. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  5. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  6. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  7. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  8. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  2. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  3. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  4. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  5. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  6. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  7. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  8. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  9. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  11. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?