How should an open society react to terror?

Police across Europe are searching for a Tunisian man suspected of driving a lorry into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin on Monday night. The man was known to German security agencies as an Islamist and "dangerous individual". While some journalists call for a tougher stance on Islamists, others see tolerance and openness as the only effective way of countering terrorism.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Berlin's asylum policy needs to be revised

Germany's asylum and security policy is in a sorry state, Deutschlandfunk observes:

“The current discussion about the presumed perpetrator of the Berlin massacre shows clearly what's wrong with Germany's asylum policy: People without passports who can't be deported. Refugees about whom we have no information because of lacking or inadequate controls. Illegal immigrants who commit a serious crime in a neighbouring EU state and then apply for asylum in Germany - and commit further serious offences. This state of affairs can't just be shrugged off. ... Border controls are effective. So are entry bans and custody pending deportation for refugees without ID or who are clearly concealing their identity. Transit zones are effective. ... If these instruments were in place they would certainly not prevent all terrorist attacks. But they would make it more difficult to carry them out. And above all they would make the police's work easier.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Tougher immigration policy not the solution

An upper limit for refugees won't increase security, Helsingin Sanomat counters:

“The fact that the perpetrator's identity and motives are still not completely clear hasn't prevented people from linking the attack to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy. … And the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's CDU, has joined in the Merkel-bashing. 'We owe it to the victims, those affected and to the entire nation to rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy,' said CSU leader Horst Seehofer just 14 hours after the attack. ... Seehofer is implying that the attack is a consequence of the number of refugees in Germany. ... But you don't need an asylum application ruling to steal a lorry. ... So the calls for an upper limit on asylum seekers are just a sham.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Defeat hatred with tolerance and openness

The Germans should follow the example of Norway in responding to terror, the Irish Examiner advises:

“Speaking after Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people on a summer afternoon, then prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said: 'Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.' Norway, he promised, would not seek vengeance as America had after 9/11. 'We will answer hatred with love.' This was, and is, the correct response. Anything else fuels the intolerance so assertive today. This must be done in a way that advances the values seen as so threatening by those who might be happy to drive a truck through crowds of happy Christmas shoppers.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Only by sticking together can wounds be healed

Berlin will cope with the bloody deed, Egyptian-born author Hamed Abdel-Samad writes in Die Welt:

“Today Berlin is paying the price for its cosmopolitanism. It was hit in the heart, at a Christmas market at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which still bears the scars of the past. ... Berlin has opted for life. However I worry that now the industry of hatred and anger will be all the more empowered. ... We must come down hard on the attackers, there is no question about it. But please, don't punish the wrong people. Yes, we should crack down on the preachers of violence, but we should not be suspicious of every single Muslim. Let us learn to distinguish between people and ideology. The wounds will heal if we stick together, talk frankly about the causes and take effective measures, but not if we turn against each other and abandon our cosmopolitan spirit.”

Der Bund (CH) /

Don't let politics be dictated by fear

After the attack in Berlin there is a danger that society will surrender itself to fear, Der Bund warns:

“If there are more attacks in the coming months we could see a trend like that in France. ... French society has been so intimidated by the relentless series of attacks that the fight against what is seen as the threat of 'Islam' knows virtually no boundaries and fundamental rights like the freedom of religion are in danger. The extremisms on both sides are whipping each other into a frenzy and pulling the perplexed centre back and forth. In the long run such a situation will shatter a society, both politically and in it terms of daily coexistence. ... If the fear of fear also paralyses Germany, the power at the centre of Europe, the terrorists will have achieved their goal in a spectacular manner.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Far right and Islamists strengthening each other

Marcus Pretzell, the leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has tweeted that the victims of the Berlin attack on Monday evening are "Merkel's dead". Such behaviour is irresponsible, Le Quotidien writes angrily:

“Such reductionism is extremely effective at dividing public opinion. That's precisely what those who order such attacks want to achieve, now that the political debate is shifting into high gear as the election year approaches. In this respect the far right and the Islamists reinforce each other. However the events in Nice serve as a reminder that apart from the truck driver's mental illness the investigations have failed to uncover any concrete link between the attack and the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility. But the truth is no more important to the far right than the glory of God is to the Islamists.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Lone wolf attacks barely preventable

There are good reasons why it is so difficult to prevent terror attacks, Helsingin Sanomat explains:

“As Finland prepares for the Christmas celebrations, here too the sense of insecurity was exacerbated on Monday after three violent attacks were reported in three different countries within a short period of time. The destruction inflicted by a lorry on a traditional Christmas market in Berlin, the killing of the Russian ambassador in Ankara and the shooting in an Islamic centre in Zurich were three separate events. ... Terror attacks are the school killing sprees of our time. The attackers are often mentally ill and imitate each other both in the planning and execution stages. As with shooting sprees, the key to prevention is early recognition of the danger. However such prevention is hindered by the fact that the attackers plan their strikes alone.”

Kurier (AT) /

Free society will win out

Free society will triumph in the end despite repeated terror attacks such as that which allegedly took place on Monday evening in Berlin, Kurier is convinced:

“There are solitary perpetrators dedicated to the murderous ideology; there are Islamist cells like the one in Belgium which plan and carry out targeted attacks, orchestrated from the territory of the 'Islamic State'; and domestic security agents across Europe warn that now that the jihadist organisation is severely weakened in Syria and Iraq some fighters will come home and try to live out their hateful and murderous thoughts in Europe. This is a time of mourning. The mood at the Christmas markets will be subdued in the days to come. The situation has become more dangerous, but it hasn't changed. Vigilance is called for. Neither we nor our politicians must give in to terror, as cynical as that might sound given these new victims. In the knowledge that democracy and our values are a few centuries more advanced than the jihadist insanity.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Terrorists aiming for chain reaction

Political calculation lies behind every terrorist act but we must not give in to it, Jutarnji list warns:

“Because of its very nature, terrorism is an act of cowardice. Cold-bloodedly killing unarmed negotiators, journalists or civilians like those in Berlin is an act of moral penury. The goal of yesterday's attack was only to spread fear and insecurity. The idea is retaliation, yes - targeted in Ankara, blind and deranged in Berlin - but also to escalate the conflict and set off a chain reaction. Political repercussions are part of the strategy of terror. The murderous act in Berlin supplies the populist agitators with arguments for blaming Angela Merkel and the democratic government for not being tough enough on potential attackers and terrorists. And then it's all too easy to lump all foreigners and Muslims together. But terrorism must be fought at its roots, in the conflict hotspots.” (PL) /

Germany refuses to see the danger

The very accusations referred to by Jutarnji list are voiced by the nationalist portal wPolityce:

“After the attacks on women on New Year's Eve in Cologne, the attack in Ansbach and the knife attacks in Bavaria, Angela Merkel promised security. Each time the people were reassured that Germany and France - which has been repeatedly hit by terrorist attacks - were finally safe. They were told that the Islamists would do no harm, and that the door should be opened even wider for the refugees. The EU Parliament warned Poland four times that it was supposedly endangering security in Europe. Ultimately, however, it never concerned itself with the security of the Germans or the French. ... Today we see how big a threat we face. A Christmas market has been stained with innocent blood. Germany, blinded by its love for migrants, is unable to think about the threat, or about how to protect its citizens from such attacks.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

IS lashing out in desperation

The truck attack in Berlin is reminiscent of this summer's attack in Nice, La Libre Belgique writes, warning that even if the IS has been weakened it has not lost its bite:

“The movement is in its death throes. ... Faced with the international armada, the Islamic State is on its last legs, at least militarily. However its ability to cause harm is still very real. In its hopeless situation, it will try to carry out as many murderous attacks as possible. The leaders of this movement are nothing but criminal terrorists. Lawless, immoral people who have nothing to gain from giving themselves in or repenting. Until it is completely decapitated this organisation will remain a danger for the entire world. Because its zealots are active all over the world.”