Opinion / Fu Jing

EU needs to regain its reputation as a safe, secure place

By FU JING (China Daily) Updated: 2016-08-10 08:30

EU needs to regain its reputation as a safe, secure place

Paramedics help injured outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, following an explosion on Tuesday. [Photo / Reuters]

In the decade up to 2014, the European Union could claim to be safer than the rest of the world, mainly because the number of terrorist attack victims decreased in the EU even as it increased globally. From 2009 to 2013, according to EU figures, 38 people died in terrorist attacks in the EU. In 2014, the number of terrorist victims within the EU was four, although many Europeans were killed in terrorist attacks in conflict zones outside the union.

But last year, things changed tragically: 151 people were killed and more than 360 injured in terrorist attacks in the EU, says the annual report of the European Police Office, the EU's law enforcement agency that started monitoring terrorist activities after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

This year, the attacks have spread to Belgium, with explosions at the Brussels airport and metro in March killing 32 people. In July, an Islamic fanatic killed 84 people in the French Riviera city of Nice by driving a truck through a crowd watching Bastille's Day fireworks. And smaller-scale terrorist attacks, too, have occurred from time to time in other EU countries.

Terrorism attacks and activities have been rising in the EU, the EPO says, mainly because of the influence of the Islamic State group and increasing xenophobia and racialism across the bloc. The EPO says the overall threat to security in the EU remains on an upward trajectory. Some European politicians, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls for example, have even said Europe has to live with such a danger for a while.

The EU has tried to lighten the threat by saying on its website that terrorism is not a new phenomenon in Europe as EU states recorded 1,010 failed, foiled or completed attacks between 2009 and 2013. Last year, the total number of such attacks was 211.

The fact, however, is that the number of deaths has been rising rapidly, which shows the EU-especially France that has borne the brunt of such attacks-needs to intensify efforts to prevent and counter terrorism.

Some people say France is relatively safe, citing the uncertainty of life. They claim more people die in traffic accidents than in terrorist attacks. But this is absurd logic. In particular, since EU officials lay great emphasis on human rights and security, they should ensure that the threat of a terrorist attack within the bloc is minimum. If the situation doesn't get better soon, then the EU, a project aimed at establishing permanent regional peace, could face a potential credibility crisis now that the UK has dealt a serious blow to European unity by parting ways from the bloc.

Terrorist attacks act as a big "disruptive force" and affect a long chain of people both within and outside Europe. For example, a growing number of Chinese are concerned about the safety and security situation in Europe when they decide to invest, travel or send their children to study there. Some Chinese parents are even urging their children who are already settled or studying in London, Paris or Brussels to return to China.

Reactions in China and other non-EU countries will affect European businesses. The declining number of tourists to Europe is a telling indication of the things to come. So EU politicians must realize the severe consequences of continuing terrorist attacks in the bloc, because they could erode the attraction of Europe as an investment and tourism destination.

For the safety and prosperity of the EU, its politicians have to take strict measures to preempt terrorist attacks by launching a serious counter-offensive against terrorism, instead of saying the European Union has to live with it for some time.

The author is deputy chief of China Daily European Bureau

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