On May the 22nd Europe suffered yet another terrorist attack, this time in Manchester, the U.K. In this incident, 22 mainly young people lost their lives, while attending a pop concert by American singer Ariana Grande. It happened just over one month after the attack in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, which left 5 people dead. After France, Belgium, Russia and Germany, this is the latest terror attack which takes place on European soil. But it is becoming evident that it most likely won’t be the last.
Our continent is increasingly finding itself as a target for such atrocities, so we must prepare to protect our citizens and way of life.
An FBI for Europe
Clearly, one country can not achieve this on its own. We have open borders, free movement of people and multicultural societies. If we want to maintain and safeguard those values, then we must respond to this challenge united and cooperating with each other closely. The creation of a European Intelligence Agency is an ongoing debate and many prominent EU political figures have in the past called for its creation. A European FBI if you like, would coordinate our efforts, speed up the exchanging of information and intelligence, helping to prevent terrorism in our continent.
It was November 2015, when the leader of the European Liberals, Guy Verhofstadt told MEPs that the creation of a European intelligence agency, as well as a corps of European border and coast guards, is more urgent than ever. At a debate in Brussels, the Belgian politician focused on the situation in Syria and the fact that France had broken new ground by activating article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty. Verhofstadt stated that the activation of article 42.7, necessarily implies the creation of a European coalition that other states can contribute to.
“It becomes more and more obvious that we must reflect over the better cooperation between our respective secret services,” he said in French.
Europol headquarters, The Hague, The Netherlands
Another year has passed and we still haven’t managed to make considerable progress on this plan, while the victims are increasing. The terrorists are getting more organised and are acting on a transnational basis, being able to high-jack trucks in one country, while attacking a neighboring one. They can also receive instructions from terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. We need to act soon. If national governments cannot cooperate with each other effectively, due to communication breakdown, mistrust or red-tape, then a pan-European body could speed up the process by coordination.
Preserve our way of life
The one thing that Europe must not do, is abandon its values or what it has achieved so far. The Schengen Agreement, the free movement of people or goods, our multicultural cities and open societies, must not be sacrificed for the sake of any extremist. We should stick together and do not allow them to spread hatred, fear and divisions among us. We must not scapegoat our Muslim communities for the attacks, or turn against them. On the contrary, we should ask them to join the fight against extremism, including not isolating them. It is coming to a point that the Muslim communities across Europe must cooperate, unite and be the front runners in the fight against terrorism in our continent. If we turn against them, we will only increase their discontent and radicalization, perpetuating the condition and its outcome; terror attacks. If they feel unwanted, it is unlikely that they will choose to cooperate.
Team up across communities
If any member of the Muslim community knows that someone is suspicious of extremist views, they should report them to the authorities – eject any extremists from their circles, mosques, social groups and expel them. They must become more vocal and openly condemning such actions, encouraging their youths to embrace their lives in Europe and integrate themselves in our societies.
Our governments, on the other hand, must find out what pushes European-born Muslim young men to reject all the benefits our countries can offer them, choosing to murder people and ultimately dying themselves. Have our immigration laws or integration process failed them, or is our culture simply not appealing to them?
Europe needs a debate on its future and to re-imagine itself as a society. We will either chose to enter the future divided, suspicious and scared, raising borders and barriers, alienating and scapegoating minorities, or we will chose to further cooperate, coordinate, unite and streamline our efforts in creating a peaceful, prosperous and safe continent for all its inhabitants.