Terror in Vienna: how can Europe respond to terror?

Four dead and more than twenty injured at six crime scenes: Vienna is in shock after an attack on Monday that was apparently motivated by Islamic extremism. A 20-year-old suspect with a criminal record was shot dead by the police. Commentators outline the challenges in dealing with radical Islam and discuss what Europe could do better.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

The price of a free and open society

Attacks like the one in Vienna simply can't be prevented, the Irish Times believes:

“Whether he was actually a member or had accomplices remains unclear but ultimately makes little difference to the sort of threats we are all facing. ... Such violence is ultimately impossible to prevent without turning our cities into armed camps. Like the coronavirus pandemic, it forces us to make hard choices between degrees of freedom and total security, between minimising danger and eliminating it. Like the pandemic, if we choose to remain open societies and maintain social mixing we will pay a price. We have no other choice.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Don't conjure up a clash of cultures

Excessive polarisation is unhelpful in the debate about radical Islamism, De Morgen warns:

“Of course, when our freedoms and rights are attacked we must steadfastly defend them. Of course we must carefully respect the boundary between extreme ideas and extreme acts of violence. But that is also possible without overplaying the hand of the barbaric attackers and the risk of a clash of civilizations. Because that would put us on the same ground as the terrorists. Those who portray the enemies of our constitutional state and our culture as more powerful than they really are risk having that very enemy believe them.”

NV (UA) /

Europeanisation of Islam could succeed

French President Emmanuel Macron could be successful with his ideas about an enlightened Islam, journalist Ivan Yakovyna writes in NV:

“If Macron succeeds on this issue, the historical process will be spun around 180 degrees. Because rather than an Islamisation of Europe we'll have a Europeanisation of the Islamic world. And this is what most worries the religious and political leaders of the Islamic world. The success of such an undertaking is far more dangerous to their religion and civilisation than the American invasion of Iraq or the Russian intervention in Syria. In the modern world, the battle of civilisations is not being fought out in the mountains or deserts, but in the minds of teenagers holding the latest iPhone in their hands.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Austria's calm response deserves respect

Dnevnik is impressed to see little evidence of accusations being hurled back and forth after the attack:

“Yesterday Austrian politicians were neither accusing individual communities nor the religion itself. The Austrian authorities' reaction was marked by a determination to uphold the country's civil liberties despite the tragedy, and thus to do all it can to defy terrorist attempts to divide society. This message came both from the Austrian government and from Austria's Islamic community, for whom the attack in Vienna was an attack on itself and on intercultural coexistence. The country deserves respect for the peaceful reactions from its politicians and society as a whole.”

Duma (BG) /

Bad for the Balkans' image

The perpetrator's North Macedonian origin could cast new light on the Western Balkans as a breeding ground for Islamists, fears Duma:

“This is the first case of a person from the Balkan region committing a terrorist attack in Europe. Until now, the perpetrators came from North Africa and the Middle East, but now they're coming from the Western Balkans - the threshold of Europe. From now on the region will be perceived as a threat. In contrast to the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, however, the countries of the Western Balkans are candidates for EU accession. It would not be surprising if Brussels' interest in their EU integration now cools a little.”

Denik (CZ) /

There are no patterns for terrorists

Denik reflects on the fact that the terrorist grew up in the picturesque Mödling district on the edge of the Vienna Woods:

“We must finally comprehend that there is no direct connection between migrants, Muslims and attackers. That this evil can be born directly in our country, where it is impossible to prevent religious, ethnic, anti-democratic or other hatred from breeding in mosques, churches or elsewhere. It is not just Islamist fanaticism that poses a danger. Many of the attacks were also perpetrated by the nationalist right, including the bizarre shooting four years ago in Munich, in which an Iranian neo-Nazi was the killer.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Crack down on Islamists

Svenska Dagbladet calls for decisive action against Islamist groups:

“Take the Islamists' money. Every single grant or subsidy. Anyone who threatens us publicly must be expelled or sent to prison. How can the government protect its population from IS returnees? Close mosques that don't obey the rules. Prohibit foreign funding of mosques and imams. And don't vote for politicians who refuse to speak plainly and do what must be done. Our children have the right to grow up in freedom and peace.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Past successes as a problem

Austria's security services took early and forceful action against the growing jihadist movement but this approach also had its disadvantages, says terrorism expert Guido Steinberg in a guest commentary for Der Standard:

“The destruction of structures in the most important mosques in Vienna, Graz and Linz led the jihadists to give up their old haunts and increasingly go underground, with the result that the authorities had a much harder time monitoring them than in previous years. That could also have made the Vienna attacker seem less dangerous than he actually was. Those who criticise the BVT [Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism] should keep this in mind. The failure this time around could be due to past successes.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

These are no longer just lone wolves

Gianluca Di Feo, deputy editor of La Repubblica, is certain that a well-connected organisation is behind this attack:

“The recent jihadist actions in Europe are a signal that the Islamist struggle did not end with the defeat of Islamic State. A clear pattern is emerging after the September 25th stabbing in front of the previous editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the murder of Samuel Paty and the beheading in Nice cathedral. ... These are no longer 'lone wolves' driven to kill by the online propaganda of fundamentalist hatred: the investigators are delineating cross-border networks capable of guaranteeing logistical support and money that are behind the perpetrators.”

Die Presse (AT) /

The answer is unity

The terrorists' goal is to spread fear and provoke panic reactions, warns Die Presse:

“Radical Islamists want to bring about a clash of civilizations. ... It suits them to fuel hostility towards Islam, because in this way they can win over moderate Muslims to their cause. ... Anyone who overshoots the mark in anger and makes sweeping condemnations is playing the terrorists' game. ... [There can] only be one answer: unity, prudence and strength. Even if the shock reverberates deep in our bones for a long time to come. The Austrians and everyone who lives in this country, no matter what their religion or where they come from, will not let themselves be divided by a few attackers.”