Eurosceptics slam Juncker's calls for EU 'security union' in wake of Brussels attacks
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker criticised for arguing that Europe needs "a security union" to effectively face the threat of terrorism.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has been criticised for arguing that Europe needs "a security union" to effectively face the threat of terrorism.
His comments come in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist atrocity in Brussels and as EU justice ministers converged on the city for an emergency meeting to discuss the aftermath of the explosions that struck at the heart of the EU.
Thirty-one people died in the attacks and over 250 others were injured.
- Row erupts after claims Brussels attacks demonstrate need for Brexit
- Anger and sadness first reactions to Brussels terrorist attacks
- EU foreign policy chief calls for 'international unity' following Brussels terror attacks
Speaking on Wednesday, Juncker said Europe needs to do a better job of coordinating its response.
"We feel we need capital markets union, energy union, economic and monetary union, but we also think that we need a security union," he said.
"We need everything that will allow us to achieve a security union," Juncker said.
Juncker's demand, apparently backed by Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who on Wednesday called for a "European pact for freedom and security", comes in the wake of a series of serious intelligence blunders in the run-up to the attacks in Brussels.
Turkey's president Recep Erdogan said Belgium failed to track Ibrahim El Bakraoui, a convicted Belgian armed robber whom it deported last year and who blew himself up at the airport on Tuesday an hour before his brother Khalid, a fellow convict, killed at least 20 people at Maelbeek metro station in the city centre.
The third bomber, Najim Laachraoui, is a veteran Belgian Islamist fighter in Syria who is also suspected of preparing explosive belts for the Paris attacks in November.
The media have also reported that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) had sent 400 fighters from Syria to Europe, where it is argued they can move freely across the Continent with the aim of carrying out terror attacks.
Calls for a security union are, it is argued, designed to better prevent such lapses but Juncker's demand was immediately attacked by UKIP MEP Mike Hookem, his party's defence spokesman, who said, "Juncker must be literally mad if he thinks people will sign up to a security union with the EU after it has shown itself dangerously incompetent on this issue."
It has also emerged that Belgium is set to become the latest member state to reintroduce border controls in the wake of the attacks. Its Prime Minister Charles Michel has asked for the temporary reintroduction of border controls at its internal borders from 24 March up to 12 April.
Six other members of the EU's Schengen passport-free zone have introduced new border controls in recent weeks, largely in response to the migrant crisis which threatens to engulf the continent.
On Thursday, as EU justice ministers gathered in Brussels for an emergency meeting to discuss the aftermath of the attacks, the city remained on high alert, with security further increased for a visit to Brussels on Friday by the U.S Secretary of State John Kerry.
Meanwhile, a Brussels conference has heard that the ISIS attacks on Brussels, which killed 31 people and injured another 270, further underline the urgent need for improved collaboration between Europe's intelligence services.
It was told of the need for improved co-operation between the intelligence services and the police in all member states, "working together to detain and deter terrorists."
The debate was organised by the European Foundation for Democracy and the European Policy Centre, two respected Brussels-based policy institutes, in conjunction with the Counter Extremism Project, a U.S-based initiative which was launched in Brussels six months ago, and ISPI, the Milan-based Institute for International Political Studies.
Rashad Ali, head of strategy at the UK-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said that improved intelligence gathering and collaboration between Europe's police forces and intelligence agencies would be vital in dealing with such phenomenon.
Alexander Ritzmann, a senior research fellow at the Brandenburg Institute for Security and Society, strongly argues against instant reactionary measures. He said he was "amazed" that, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, the West still "did not seem to understand" that terrorism was merely a "tactic" to achieve a specific objective.
"These people do these things not just to kill people - they want a reaction from us," he argued.
One aim of terrorist attacks was to push moderate Muslims towards extremism and, in the event of attacks such as those in Istanbul, Brussels and other cities, for the Western powers to then "over react."
Bakary Sambe, a Senegal-based academic, said that the problem of radicalisation and extremism was not confined to Europe but was also prevalent in Africa.
Roberta Bonazzi, EFD executive director, pointed to the need to expose the Islamist ideology that inspires and drives such terrorist acts, saying, "This is a pervasive ideology that is the source of radicalisation that can lead to terrorism and/or recruitment to terrorist organisations."
Secularism, as a bulwark to radicalisation, should be a key EU foreign policy priority, argues the European Foundation for Democracy's Tommaso Virgili.
If Europe is serious about fighting terrorism and extremism, the institutions of the EU need to be more actively engaged in the current situation involving Qatar, argues Richard Burchill.
Europe is lagging behind in exploiting the potential of its helicopter sector, argues Jaime Arqué.