While the Israeli ground forces have reportedly entered the territory of the Gaza Strip after several weeks of expectation, the tensions have not decreased in Europe either. Terrorist attacks have repeatedly shocked Europe in recent weeks following the deterioration of the security situation in Israel. While the Brussels shooting could only happen due to the authorities’ failure in their migration policy, it somehow still seems painful for the EU to admit its responsibility.
Following the unprecedented and brutal attacks of Hamas on some Israeli settlements Europe did not have much time to wake up from the shock. It had to deal with its own internal problems which this time came from the outside. Terrorist attacks have shaken Europe not for the first time in past years but by now it seems obvious that the situation around the Gaza Strip has not only increased tensions in Israel but also in Europe. While the two theatres cannot be compared, it is more than worrisome that a conflict in the Middle East has such direct and negative impacts on the European continent.
Abdeslam Lassoued – a 45-year-old Tunisian national – killed two Swedish people who were heading to a football match near the centre of Brussels on 16 October. The perpetrator, who opened fire from a rifle, claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Islamic State in a video posted on social media. Lassoued lived in Belgium illegally for years before he carried out the attack.
It is not a new phenomenon regarding terrorist actions that the perpetrator was on the radar of the authorities. It sounded yet saddening that Lassoued could live in the country for many years without being reached by the authorities to leave the country. Police was actually unable to contact him without knowing his exact whereabouts while the Belgian magistrates have also missed to act when they received an extradition request from Tunisia. A few days after the attack, Belgian Justice Minister resigned after he took responsibility for the failure. It is noteworthy that the new minister has already denied the systematic problems saying that it was rather a mistake, and there is no lack of resources. This doesn’t sound convincing to say the least.
The Brussels shooting’s background shows systemic problems of the European institutions, which try to effectively counter terrorism. It has been clear for many years that the national police and the secret services simply do not have the necessary sources to uncover and then to keep monitoring suspicious identities. We know this at least since Charlie Hebdo. But now it is getting even more evident that the European systems cannot filter out the radicalised persons or if so they are still unable to expel them. There is an absurd situation in the countries where they manage to uncover potential terrorists but they cannot force them to leave the country. Therefore they cannot prevent a tragedy like the Brussels one either.
The situation has got exceptionally tense in France after a teacher was stabbed to death by an Islamist terrorist on 13 October. The unsettling murder was followed later by a series of bomb threats, while the Louvre and the Versailles Palace were evacuated alongside with some airports of the country. In the meantime large-scale demonstrations were organized in multiple cities to support Palestine. Although these circumstances are not entirely new to French authorities, the situation became a growing challenge for the country’s leadership. The question of the peaceful coexistence of people of different origin in the country has been at the table for years if not decades in France. France’s interior minister probably understands the problem, when saying the EU being naive when it comes to the connection of uncontrolled migration and terrorism. He also referred to the authorities’ failure to expel the illegal migrant who later carried out the attack in Brussels.
As of now, it seems extremely challenging even for a vocal supporter of Willkommenskultur to deny the connection between illegal migration and terrorism in Europe. As among others the Brussels shooting proves that the threat of terrorism increases again in Europe and it is mostly due to the uncontrolled mass flow of illegal migrants to Europe, first of all to the Western countries. National polices and other authorities are mostly so overwhelmed they just cannot handle the situation anymore. We would only need the EU leaders to honestly admit this and start working on the solution to prevent further tragedies.
Apart from the uncontrolled illegal migration the changing security situation in the Middle East is also a factor having negative effects on the situation in Europe. Make no mistake that these terrorist actions described above happened on purpose just a few days after the situation in Gaza deteriorated. At least Brussels also admits that there is a connection between the growing violence in Gaza and the security situation in Europe. Foreign affairs chief of the EU Joseph Borrell said “Muslim religious authorities are explicitly stating that Europe is part of this conflict”. He admits that there is a growing fear in the EU that we will feel the impact of this conflict away from the war zone as well. Sadly, he was not that self-consistent to conclude the same connection between illegal migration and terrorism in Europe.
The fact that the increased tension in the Middle East led at least partially to the growing number of terrorist attacks in Europe is sadly not a new phenomenon at all. This has been the case when the ISIS was on the rise, actually that was the most active period of the Islamic terrorists during the past few decades – just to mention the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015. There is a high chance that at these times radicalised people come out from the shadow with the feeling that their time has finally come. One more reason the EU should do as much as it can to preserve regional security in the Middle East.
Considering our experience from the past few years with migration and also the developments in the Middle East, Europe will almost certainly have to prepare for increased and lasting tensions between the Islam and the Judeo-Christianity in the near future. Although the actual fights take place outside of the continent, the conflict has already claimed casualties in European countries as well. The question is whether this is already in an irreversible stage or Europe can still do something against it. It will have to try at least for its own citizens’ sake.