A new security framework for Europe?

After the Brussels attacks Europe's politicians and security experts are discussing how to respond to the terrorist threat. The exchange of information among EU member states must finally be improved, some commentators urge. Others fear that the data could end up in the wrong hands.

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Veidas (LT) /

Learn from the US

Europe should follow the US's example after the attacks in Paris and Brussels, political scientist Tomas Janeliūnas urges in the conservative weekly Veidas:

“After 9/11 the Americans took many decisions that strengthened their secret services. They realised that there were many problems - especially regarding coordination and the exchange of information. That led to key reforms in the entire US security system. Despite the protests about the potential threat to human rights, many important decisions were made. And since then there have been no more terrorist attacks of that scale. There were only attacks by lone wolves who were difficult or impossible to identify beforehand. The situation is different in Belgium. There the terrorists were part of a network that the Belgian and French intelligence services were unable to track down.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Joint secret service wishful thinking

The demands for a joint European intelligence service according to the US model are pointless because there is no legal foundation for it, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 ore comments:

“The area of security falls within the responsibility of the individual EU member states and is excluded from the European integration process. Only a revision of the EU treaties could change this. But the states of the EU believe closing borders can solve the problem. Talking about a pan-European secret service without creating a common foreign, defence and security policy is simply a waste of time. Until those things exist any comparison with the US is lame. The slogan 'We are at war' doesn't work here because who does the 'we' refer to?”

El País (ES) /

EU states must cooperate on justice

The EU states must cooperate with each other on the juristic level if they want to combat terror effectively, the deputy editor of La Repubblica Gianluca Di Feo comments in the centre-left daily El País:

“It seems that the exchange of information among police authorities and justice systems works better between states that have already had to fight internal terrorist movements in the past, like Italy, Spain and Germany. … Otherwise the borderless Europe has maintained the barriers between the respective court systems. The differences in the laws make it easier for terrorists to infiltrate states. But to defeat them will require more than just the exchange of information. The different states must begin to harmonise their legal systems, laws and procedures as quickly as possible. For example it is crucial that evidence gathered in one EU member state be admitted as such in the legal proceedings of other member states - something that is often impossible as things stand now.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Exchanging passenger information won't prevent terror

After the series of attacks in Brussels the EU ministers have also pushed for more progress in the exchange of passenger information. The national-conservative daily Neatkarīgā is sceptical:

“The claim that the intelligence services could have prevented the terrorist attacks if they had had access to passenger information was nothing short of cynical. Open your eyes! The terrorist from the Arab neighbourhood in Brussels got on the metro with an explosive belt around his waist and blew himself up. The mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik didn't need to buy an airline ticket to commit his atrocities. He took a boat and killed 77 people on Utøya Island. What purpose can sending all air passenger information to the secret services serve? None at all. ... If after every new terrorist attack the intelligence services are given more financing, more rights and more powers it can't be ruled out that it is even in their interests to allow terrorists to carry out such barbaric attacks.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

States must network to defeat the terror network

The IS terrorists must be fought with their own weapons, British historian Niall Ferguson argues in the centre-left daily La Repubblica:

“If the IS were a hierarchical state and [IS leader] al-Baghdadi its caliph, his murder would certainly weaken the IS. But the IS is a network and can't be decapitated. … Yet there is a solution. During the decisive phase of the surge in Iraq, as he battled to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq - the forerunner of ISIS - General Stanley McChrystal had an epiphany: 'It takes a network to defeat a network.' ... Underfunded and overstretched it may be, but Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, is at least the beginning of the network Europeans need to build if they are to stand any chance of beating ISIS. Just as McChrystal broke down the silo walls of American military bureaucracy, turning Joint Special Operations Command into a war-winning force, so today the West’s intelligence and security forces need to get networked as never before.”

Právo (CZ) /

Plans for an EU intelligence service naive

As logical as the demands for a coordinated pan-European war on terror may sound they are completely unrealistic, the former chief of the Czech military intelligence service Andor Šándor writes in the left-wing daily Právo:

“Intelligence services are set up by states. The EU is not a state, just as the EU Commission is not a government. What are they supposed to set up? Joint surveillance facilities? Will the British or the French be willing to show others what they are capable of in this area? Including their ability to spy on each other? And that brings us to the cardinal problem that rules out the establishment of a joint intelligence agency: mutual trust. It would be wrong to think that this trust is equal among all the member states. … So we shouldn't give in to the illusion that we can guarantee citizens 100-percent security.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Refugees bring terror to Europe

After the latest attacks in Brussels Europe must not underestimate the terrorist threat refugees represent, the liberal daily Corriere del Ticino warns:

“We must not forget what has happened in the rich European states in the last six to seven months. An unstoppable wave of refugees has flooded Europe and continues to do so. … Hidden among the genuine refugees are Islamic fundamentalists who are willing to do the bidding of the caliphate and ruthlessly carry out attacks. … These operations are coordinated with Islamic cells already present in the countries of arrival which have been bolstered by second-generation migrants who have chosen the jihadi path - frequently in a bid to give meaning to their frustrated existence on the fringes of the society that has taken them in.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Pan-European cooperation urgently needed

Bureaucratic obstacles have left Europe vulnerable, the conservative daily Le Figaro criticises:

“The EU administrative jungle - 28 capitals with conflicting interests must be jointly accommodated - is no better protected than the Kingdom of Belgium with its four governments. Six police forces are operative in the Belgian capital alone. On the borderless continent, any security loopholes in one country have immediate consequences for the others. Destabilised by the refugee crisis after seven years of economic slump downturn stagnation, Europe most certainly does not need that now. ... The Brits, who are flirting with a Brexit, the French and the Germans, who are tempted by the anti-European far right, have sent a clear message: as opposed to the official credo, the EU is not the solution but the problem. To turn things around after these killings we need more than just an emergency meeting of the interior ministers.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

States must share information

Only through international cooperation among police agencies and intelligence services can global terrorism be combatted effectively, the conservative daily La Vanguardia stresses:

“Europe can't combat jihadism effectively if its various counter-terrorism services created barely communicate with each other. Not to mention the lack of communication among the different authorities within an individual state (the city of Brussels, for example, has six local police forces and one federal force). The organigram of security is made for a national framework rather than tackling global terrorism, not only as regards the different areas of responsibility but also as regards the very character and mindset of these services, which tend to keep their information and sources to themselves. We should bear in mind how 9/11 exposed the distrust and rivalry between the CIA and the FBI.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Sensitive data could end up in the wrong hands

Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has once again called for improved data exchange in Europe, arguing that security is more important than data protection. But such information can end up in the wrong hands, the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung warns:

“The EU states that have efficient security services are not about to toss their sensitive and valuable data into a 28-state pot if there is a chance that other states will play fast and loose with it. Bearing in mind the current state of the security bureaucracy in various EU states, it cannot be excluded that the most sensitive data would find its way into the hands of organised criminals. And as long as this risk exists a joint counter-terrorism centre for all 28 EU states will remain an illusion. ... One effective interim solution would be for able and willing states in core Europe to set up a small, effective counter-terrorism centre with intensive data exchange.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Have the Belgian authorities failed?

According to Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan one of the Brussels attackers had been detained in Turkey over his ties with the Islamist scene and deported back to Belgium in July 2015. The liberal daily De Standaard finds the fact that the authorities in Europe released him disturbing:

“After the Paris attacks the two el-Bakraoui brothers already came under scrutiny. Wasn't it already clear then that one of them, Ibrahim, had basically been presented to the Belgian legal authorities on a platter? Did someone fail to add up the facts or pass on the information? These questions can't be ignored. … More than 30 people have died and more than 200 have been injured. All the other countries are observing the situation with incomprehension and growing anger. How can we maintain that our system worked when there are so many indications pointing in the opposite direction? What will happen when Belgium can no longer deny that it has failed as a state? Who will assume the responsibility for this?”

Kauppalehti (FI) /

Security measures alone insufficient

Lasting success in the fight against terrorism can only be guaranteed by long-term measures and strategies, the business paper Kauppalehti is convinced:

“Clearly terrorism in Europe cannot be defeated only with joint security measures. The real causes of terrorism - of which the Syria war is currently the most acute - must be defeated. The next step is then to take appropriate steps to integrate the immigrants who have come to Europe, because in the poor neighbourhoods of our big cities the seeds for the radicalisation of immigrants are germinating. Security measures are a first step. But terrorism must be tackled at its roots to prevent it from permanently destroying the European lifestyle, European values and the open society.”

More opinions

Wiener Zeitung (AT) / 24 March 2016
  EU and US intelligence services must join forces to combat IS terror (in German)