European leaders call for stringent measures to address terrorism
On November 10, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz met French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris where they were joined by videoconference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The leaders held a summit to push for a “common coordinated and rapid” European response to counterterror attacks.
The summit was organised in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Austria and France. A man, who allegedly tried to join the Islamic State group, shot and killed four people in the Austrian capital of Vienna on November 3. In France last month, an Islamic extremist killed three people in a church in Nice, while another extremist beheaded a teacher near Paris for showing students some cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The summit took place among mounting pressure for greater cooperation between the European Union and the Member States to take the lead on counterterrorism and address the threat of Islamic terrorism. Macron minced no words in his remarks that extremist attacks are a “European reality”.
The response to terrorism and radicalization must be “common, coordinated and rapid” with “methodic” work in the weeks ahead, before a meeting of the European Heads of State in December, Macron said. Macron detailed the need to develop common databases between the EU states, improve cooperation between law enforcement agencies, share intel and enact tougher legislation on the continent. Any threat at the EU external borders or inside even one-Member State is a threat to the entire EU, French President said.
The leaders discussed the need for a “determined fight against terrorist propaganda and hate speech on the internet,” Macron told an online briefing after the meeting. “The internet is a space of freedom, our social networks too, but this freedom exists only if there is security and if it is not the refuge of those who flout our values or seek to indoctrinate with deadly ideologies,” he said.
Macron had also called for a reform of the Schengen Zone. “Public opinion in states confronted with a terrorist threat will not be able to accept keeping our borders open for long if we do not deeply reform the Schengen area. We saw it in spring in the context of the pandemic and we see it now with terrorism”, he remarked.
Macron’s remarks at the summit comes after a week when he proposed tighter controls on the EU’s external borders, more coordinated policing inside the bloc’s visa-free zone and changes to the EU migration policy. “Attacks in France, in Austria a few days ago in Vienna, show us that the terrorist risk is everywhere, that (terrorist) networks are global … which forces Europe to intensify its response,” he had then stated.
Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz cited the need to better cope with imprisoned ex-jihadis, many of whom will be freed after serving time. He called them “ticking time bombs.” “We have a permanent danger among us,” he said of foreign fighters who returned from Syria or Iraq. He said their freedom should be limited to protect society. The Austrian leader also denounced “political Islam, radicalization” as the background noise in the European society, and “the poison, the breeding ground for terrorism.”
Dutch Prime Minister Rutte stressed that the fight against extremism was a common one. “There are major, major societal issues across the European Union,” he said. “Unfortunately, we all have to fight against organizations and individuals who deeply hate the values that we regard as our most important assets: democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the need to protect the European borders but ruled out that there was a conflict of interest between Christianity and Islam. “This is not about a confrontation between Islam and Christianity, for example; this is about the democratic model of society having to confront terrorist and anti-democratic behavior, and with great frankness and determined strength,” Merkel said.
To address the threat of radicalisation, the European Council President Charles Michel, has called for the establishment of a new EU body to oversee the training of Imams and make sure their follows do not contribute to spreading an “ideology of hate.”
On November 9, speaking in Vienna while paying tributes to the victim of the terror attacks, Michel remarked, “It is important to be firm about this. I think, for example, that we should have debates at the European level in connection with the idea that was raised some time ago of setting up a European institute for the training of Imams, to ensure that this message of tolerance and openness can be conveyed at the European level.”
The European Council President has also called for tightening the grip on foreign funding for religious organizations “that mobilize to stir up hatred”.
Source: New Delhi Times