Sat, Jul 30, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Combating terrorism in Europe

By Lin Tai-ho 林泰和

Norway is normally a peaceful country. This peace was shattered just over a week ago by a bomb blast in Oslo, followed shortly thereafter by a massacre on a nearby island. The atrocities on that day left scores dead and served as a reminder just how vulnerable Europe is to terrorist attacks.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US, Europe has become a haven for money laundering, crime and all manner of terrorist attacks. According to last year’s Europol EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), Europe is currently threatened by Islamist, ethnic and nationalist groups, left-wing and right-wing (with Marxist-Leninist and state socialist ideological underpinnings) terrorist groups, as well as activist organizations such as animal rights and environmental groups.

As the situation stands right now, there remain several major obstacles Europe needs to overcome in its anti-terror efforts.

The first of these is the common currency and inter-governmental cooperation. Anti-terrorism efforts in the eurozone are hobbled by legislation that introduced the common currency, relaxed border controls, relatively lax financial regulation and unregulated financial centers abroad, all of which have made Europe the perfect place to launder money, smuggle currency and engage in other kinds of financial activity that make things easier for terrorists.

At the same time, the EU is not a supranational state and anti-terrorism efforts have to be coordinated at the EU level, individual member state level and with the international community. The complex coordination required to achieve this further exacerbates the situation.

The next obstacle is the robust guarantees to protect human rights and basic freedoms. The European Convention on Human Rights, in both wording and spirit, places much emphasis on basic individual freedoms and rights, rendering it difficult to implement UN regulations related to the freezing of terrorist funding.

The European Court voided European Commission stipulations related to the transfer of funds to terrorists in the Kadi and al-Barakaat cases, on the grounds that the interpretation of the UN 1267 anti-terrorist organization regime ran counter to the fundamental guarantee of human rights.

In addition, European countries lack a consensus on how to fight terrorism and the eastern expansion of the EU has also introduced further complications. These conditions conspire to make it almost impossible to develop a comprehensive set of effective anti-terrorism measures. The upshot of all this is that Europe presents individuals intent on funding terrorist organizations with an opportunity that is difficult to pass up, as the EU is unable to implement consistent and far-reaching anti-terrorist legislation comparable to the US Patriot Act.

Logistics bases for al-Qaeda cells have already been discovered in the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain and Belgium. Before the group launched the Sept. 11 attacks, these European cells maintained close contact with each other, but since governments generally jealously guard intelligence, Europe’s anti--terrorist capability was severely compromised.

Because the EU lacked a unified anti-terrorist mechanism, the US has also been reluctant to work with individual European states.

Traditionally, terrorist organizations operating in Europe have had a regional, hierarchical structure and their political goals have been limited to self-autonomy. Nowadays, international terrorist organizations differ in that they cross national boundaries, have a flatter structure and are bent on killing Westerners and undermining their values. As a result, traditional responses are no longer relevant to today’s challenges.

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