For most of the people a completely normal day. For some it represents an unlucky day. For 129 people it was their last day. To see the French reaction we didn’t need to wait long. In fact, it wasn’t neither a surprise, specially if we take into account the rhetoric used by president François Hollande in his first speech on Friday and in the others that followed. The opinions regarding the usefulness of the attacks are mixed. Some say that they are needed, while others warn that this attacks in Syria will only provoke more attacks on European soil. In any case, this would also bring more refugees to Europe. Only one thing is sure. Europe is inside a vicious circle and to exit from we will (unfortunately) need a lot of time.
It is very difficult to describe my feelings in these days. The most common one is impotence that is closely linked to a feeling of fear. Impotence in coping with the fact that I am loosing the ground, that the European ideals I believe in are falling and with discovering that we don’t know how (or don’t want to) learn from our past mistakes.
However, I am even more worried, that this event in Paris will tear us, the Europeans, even more apart from each other. Maybe this fear seems excessive, specially in the light of the first reactions of supports towards France from other European countries and because France, as the first country in history, invoked article 42(7) of the Treaty of the EU (the so called mutual assistance clause). Still, when the situation will calm down a little, when are feelings will switch back to normal mode and when the politicians will start again with their populist rhetoric, we will be each one on its own side divided.
For sure, the main victims of this “distancing” will be Schengen the EU asylum policy. Considering the comments on social media in the aftermath of the attacks and the events from before them, I am worried, that such limitations will find supporters among the people.
That Schengen will be the first “collateral” victim was indicated soon after the attacks. The fact that the French president closed the borders, to prevent terrorists from escaping from France is completely understandable and right. However, even the most hermetically closed border can’t help, if you don’t know who you are looking for. The main suspect was stopped by the French police soon after the attacks, but he was also allowed to continue his journey.
If Schengen will be the main political victim, on the other hand refugees, will be the biggest human victim. People by nature have to find in a person or a group of persons a scapegoat for their problems. The refugees, that are massively coming in the last weeks and months, have all the characteristics for this role. The fact, that one of the terrorists came to Europe within a refugee group, also doesn’t help. However, we must not generalise and we must take into consideration the fact, that the majority of the attackers were European citizens already known to the authorities. Finally, we also must not forget that the refugees are escaping from their countries due to similar (if not even worse) facts of violence, than the ones from Paris.
In any case, Europe and Europeans will for sure change after the last events. I am worried that we will become even more closed, distrustful and intolerant. After the September 11th attacks, the public opinion in the US accepted limitations to their freedom, in order to beat the terrorists.
“Instead of threatening with the abolition of something that connects and gives us a feeling of European affiliation (Schengen), the countries have to pass over the mistrust they may still have and share their intelligence data. I am not saying that national intelligence agencies should be closed, but they should be put together under EU leadership. As the attacks in Paris have shown intelligence data existed, but the countries were not able (or didn’t want) to use and share them. Beside the common preventive work with the exchange of intelligence data, I think that is also time to create a common EU police, a kind of Europol 2.0, to fight the biggest criminal offenses (including terrorism). This police force should have its own staff (police officers) and should have the jurisdiction to conduct investigations and arrest criminals involved in high-profile cross-border crimes.”
“Now the countries how to decide how to continue and they have only two possibilities. The full dismantlement, that would lead to times of long queues, limited circulation within our continent and useless isolation, or the final completion of a true and fully operating common space with a common external border under supranational control, that will guarantee an equal control and protection of it. There is no middle way.”
The first quote is taken from my reaction to January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo, while the second is from my reaction to the temporary reintroduction of checks on the internal Schengen borders in September. Why don’t we therefore, before we close ourselves even more, try to unite even more. What France and Europe need now is:
- A common European police force with cross-border jurisdiction to investigate cases of important and high-scale crimes, like for example terrorism acts,
- A common European intelligence agency to provide reliable and up to date information to help preventing high-scale crimes and events, like terrorist attacks, and
- A common European border protection force, to protect the common external (Schengen) border.
The closing of our (internal) borders and the searching for a scapegoat represent only a false consolation that won’t make us any safer. Rather the opposite. But it will cause happiness and joy among those who hate us much, as they will achieve their main goal – change our lifestyle and habits.