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Terrorism alert: US invites itself to EU meeting, SitCen reinforced

Credit: Council of the EU

(BRUSSELS2) The format of the meeting of EU Interior Ministers, held on Thursday (October 7) in Luxembourg — with the surprise presence of the US Undersecretary of State for Homeland Security, Jane Holl Lute — was exceptional in itself. Especially with such a subject on the table: terrorism. And whatever the comments or assessments of the alert given by the United States, it gives it additional credibility, political legitimacy. Even if the real risk remains to be assessed, the message was worth listening to. Because it indicates, according to the information collected, that 25 people, of European nationality, trained in Afghanistan or Pakistan, have arrived or will arrive on European soil with the intention of committing attacks. Rather worrying news from several points of view.

Reinforced SitCen and regular EU-US meetings

The 27+1 agreed on some practical decisions. First of all, regularly (at least once a year), a meeting would be held in this EU+USA format. Then, the 27 want to strengthen the exchange of information between them on alert levels through SitCen (the EU intelligence service center). Currently, there are exchanges of information, but only on a bilateral basis; There, the objective would be to make it possible, when a State raises its alert level or lowers it, to warn the 26 other Member States in advance. The warning signage will also be reviewed so that it is common to all States; colors, alert levels each has its own little note which makes it difficult to understand.

Differences in political and practical appreciation…

There is a fundamental difference in political appreciation between the United States and European states. Hence this different sensitivity from one side of the Atlantic to the other. This is not just an electoral issue. In the United States, information on the terrorist risk is an obligation of the government, and taking an alert lightly could, tomorrow, cost the various political leaders at the highest level their jobs. The main European governments are not bound by this obligation linked to their public opinion. On the contrary, the latter is generally satisfied with relative discretion on these subjects. Added to this that in certain countries such as Spain, France or the United Kingdom, since 2004-2005, the alert has been permanent. The Vigipirate plan has thus remained in “Red” since the London attacks. And the military has been patrolling the main stations and symbolic public places in the capital for almost 20 years (even if the effectiveness of these patrols is close to zero).

(1) Read also:admission of failure on Afghanistan

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).