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EU States Push for Tougher Measures to Tackle Terrorism

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, is welcomed by Deputy Head of Mission at the Austrian embassy Wolfgang Wagner in Paris before signing a condolence book for victims of the Vienna attack, Nov. 3 2020.

After the recent attacks in southern France and Austria, some European leaders are pushing for tougher measures to tackle terrorism on the continent.

After the shock comes action. That is what European leaders promise after the deadly terror attacks in Nice and Vienna.

Pressure has been building ahead of the talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for greater cooperation between members and for the EU to take the lead on counterterrorism.

“The European Union has increased its powers, it has introduced new legislation, it has reinforced cooperation between member states, it has strengthened the role of the EU border agency, the EU police agency notably. Member states are seeing the European Union has a more helpful complement to what they’re doing at the national level, compared to the situation 20 years ago,” said Thomas Renard, a senior fellow at the Edgemont Institute, a think tank in Brussels..

Last week, Macron said he would double police and military presence at France’s borders and support a fundamental reform of the Schengen agreement to enforce new security controls for Europe.

French police officers stand guard outside Notre Dame church in Lille, northern France, Nov. 1, 2020.
French police officers stand guard outside Notre Dame church in Lille, northern France, Nov. 1, 2020.

The French leader said he intends to lead some initiatives to improve the control outside EU borders such as deeply reforming the Schengen Agreement, which rules free movement with the Schengen Area. He insists it is the only to be more efficient to control those external borders.

Luigi di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, said that the European Union should adopt a version of the USA Patriot Act, which gives security agencies greater surveillance powers.

But is it doable in Europe, a continent which has embraced protection of civil liberties for decades?

For Thomas Renard the answer is no.

“Of course the terrorist threat (in Europe) is high but not nearly high enough as it was (in the) post 9/11 context. The European Union does not have anything near the competence of the U.S. administration when it comes to counterterrorism. If anything, a Patriot Act could be decided at the national level by some countries. But even then the safeguards are quite strong in the different European countries so I do not think that we are going to see anything similar to a Patriot Act here in Europe,” he said.

As leaders keep discussing the issue, a ceremony was scheduled Monday in Vienna to pay tribute to the victims of last week’s attack that left five dead.