Schengen criticised after attack in Thalys
Following the thwarted attack on a French train on Friday evening, the authorities are assuming radical Islamic motives on the part of the alleged perpetrator. Belgium's prime minister has demanded changes in the Schengen regulations. Some commentators argue that Europe's open borders make planning terrorist attacks easier. Others emphasise that Europe will only be able to fight terror on the basis of a common security policy.
Powerless against Islamists
The French authorities announced on Sunday that the man suspected of carrying out the attack on the Thalys train was a 25-year-old Moroccan of radical Islamist background. His name was already listed in a counter-terrorism file of persons of interest. The conservative daily Le Figaro expresses criticism that the surveillance of Islamists is ineffective and that they are able to move around freely in Europe: "If there's anything positive about the thwarted Thalys attack, it is the fact that it has roused us from our slumber. What's the point of producing thousands of [surveillance] files when potential terrorists can just go over the borders and enter and leave countries as they please? Our society is now realising how powerless it is against the unprecedented expansion of the war radical Islam is waging against us."
More Europe the answer to terrorism
In the aftermath of the foiled terror attack, calls for the abolition of the Schengen Agreement have become louder. But that would be the wrong approach, warns the liberal daily newspaper De Standaard: "To dismantle European achievements would be the wrong answer. If we give up Schengen, one of the foundation stones of the entire European project will be gone. If we begin to close our borders systematically once more, then we will neither defend ourselves from terrorists, nor will we solve the asylum problem. The causes of today's problems are too complex and too global. … The need for a common foreign policy, a common migration policy and a common security policy has never been so great. The beginnings of such policies already exist. We have to expand on these and strengthen them. There is no turning back."
Civil courage can prevent disaster
The thwarted attack on the Thalys train will increase fears of Islamist terror in the West, the centre-left daily The Guardian notes, at the same time praising the passengers for their civil courage: "Every attack of this nature sends another tremor through the structures of civil society. Trust between travellers will become a little more fragile; security at train stations may be stepped up. Intelligence agencies should be left, once again, considering the lessons to be learned from allowing a recognised potential risk - El-Khazzani had been identified as a radical Islamist, and there are unconfirmed reports that he had travelled recently to Syria - to acquire weapons and launch a challenge. But perhaps even more important is the renewed evidence of the power of one or two people to prevent harm and to do good."
Counter terrorism with fearlessness
Neither tighter checks at train stations nor long intelligence lists will give us more security, writes the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "Surveillance and being on our guard is good, but we shouldn't believe we can make places that are visited by thousands of people safe. Nowadays it's simply not enough to register someone as a suspect. The famous blacklists are full of names. … As far as we, the people, are concerned, the best response is normality. We know that there is a threat (and it's neither the only one nor the biggest one), but we must confront it by getting on with our lives. Terrorists wish to deprive us of living space by drenching our means of transportation, bars and restaurants and streets in blood. … They want to kill and divide society. … The most effective way to retaliate is to show that we are fearless."