EU's anti-terror response should not compromise 'values and identity'

We mustn't give up 'our hard fought freedoms', argues LIBE chair Claude Moraes.

By Rajnish Singh

Rajnish Singh is Political Engagement Manager at Dods

26 Jan 2015

Reacting to the terrorist attacks in Paris, British S&D deputy Claude Moraes told the Parliament Magazine that, "The events in Paris were the worst terrorist outrage in Europe since the 7/7 bombing s in London in 2005."

The events in Paris "brought back painful memories" for the chair of the European parliament's civil liberties (LIBE) committee. However he was keen to stress that the attacks "renewed my determination and that of my MEP colleagues to play a part in detecting, preventing and providing resilience against terrorism."

ECR LIBE member Timothy Kirkhope highlighted the need for MEPs to again examine justice and security measures in the fight against terrorism saying, "It is our duty as legislators to protect those who have elected us and to deliver justice to those who seek to do us harm".

He added that "we must step up our security efforts so that citizens do not live in fear."

EPP committee member Tomás Zdechovský believes, "Islamic terrorism poses a serious threat to the entire continent, and is a result of domestic radicalisation. There is evidence that foreign fighters are being recruited and trained abroad."

"It is our duty as legislators to protect those who have elected us and to deliver justice to those who seek to do us harm" - Timothy Kirkhope

The Czech MEP says the key to tackling this form of terrorism is to "break the chains of the terrorist networks and prevent radicalisation of Europeans."

This sentiment was echoed by Kirkhope who also wants to "combat the underlying factors of radicalisation, by preventing recruitment and training". However, he stresses this should be done by "promoting tolerance through community education and integration."

Given that recent terrorist attacks in Europe have been carried out by individual 'lone wolf' terrorists or small groups, Zdechovský highlighted the difficulties confronting Europe's security and policing agencies. He is keen to "deepen cooperation in the field of security on the European and international level".

He also makes reference to several obstacles that need to be overcome in implementing an effective anti-terrorist strategy. In particular, addressing how to deal with jihadi fighters returning to the EU.
"Their presence […] threatens to lead to further radicalisation of their peers and to strengthening the Islamist network".

Zdechovský says it's vital to "isolate returning foreign fighters while at the same time preventing other citizens from leaving the EU to fight abroad." However, to deal effectively with Islamic terrorists he believes there is a "need to cooperate more tightly with European Muslim organisations and their communities in order to find a long-lasting solution."

However Greens/EFA MEP Eva Joly warns that "the temptation to intensify security will be huge over the coming months".

Despite describing the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo journalists as "cowardly" and "attacking all of us" as well as "the basic principles of free democracies," Joly also stresses that while "madness spoke, we have to speak louder to defend the values of democracy."

"Restricting fundamental rights by tightening surveillance is definitely not the answer" - Eva Joly

She agrees that security is needed but instead wants to see more efficient measures. The French MEP says "restricting fundamental rights by tightening surveillance is definitely not the answer."

According to Joly, before proposing any new security policies, it is important to understand "why, where and how our current law enforcement failed."  

In particular she wants to find out why French security services stopped monitoring Cherif Kouachi, the younger of the two Kouchai brothers, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo shootings, who according to news reports was known to French police for being involved in militant Islamic activities.

Agreeing with her fellow LIBE committee colleagues, Joly says there is a need to address the root causes of radicalisation; in particular overhauling the entire prison system in Europe.

"We have to make sure that people do not come out of prison more radicalised. Also police and justice organisations in the EU have to work faster and more intensively to track concrete leads at an early stage," she says.

Another aspect of the attacks politicians need to consider is the anti-Semitic motives of those carrying out the attacks. One of the terrorists, Amedy Coulibaly, carried out an attack on a Jewish kosher supermarket, which killed four people.

The European network against racism (ENAR) has meanwhile called on "political and public leaders to commit to curbing anti-Semitism and all forms of racism in European society".

The chair of ENAR, Sarah Isal says, "The latest anti-Semitic killings shows the perverse effect of polarising communities and the lack of political will to address social exclusion and xenophobic discourse."

She calls on politicians to "move from lip service to concrete measure to fight hatred".

Immediately after the terrorist attacks the French governments organised an emergency informal meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers. EU anti-terrorist co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove also attended, saying, "a very strong political will was expressed by ministers from different European countries along with ministers from the US and Canada, which is important as it will help speed up and deepen a programme of action."

"When we look at possible new powers we will do so in a measured way, ensuring that we never give into terrorism by compromising our hard fought freedoms" - Claude Moraes

In a speech to EU ministers, the migration, home affairs and citizenship commissioner Dimitris Avramopolous, highlighted security measures the commission was already considering including: strengthening preventions of radicalisation, improving ways to monitor money laundering and financing of terrorism, better detection and response to threats, and setting up a European system for the transfer of passenger data.

However, the passenger name record (PNR) system, which is currently being proposed by the European commission, has failed to receive the backing of parliament. The legislation is in legal limbo since 2011 due to privacy and data protection concerns.

Avramopolous was keen to stress in the emergency meeting "we must all act together to make it clear to our friends and enemies that Europe can guarantee the security of its citizens without compromising values and identity."

This reassurance is echoed by Claude Moraes "When we look at possible new powers we will do so in a measured way, ensuring that we never give into terrorism by compromising our hard fought freedoms."

EU justice and home affairs minister are scheduled to hold talks at an informal council meeting in Riga, Latvia on the 29 January.

A number of EU member states are on high alert following the attacks in Paris and a number of anti-terror raids across Belgium.


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