Pre-emptive EU action against terrorism needed - Minister

Austria – Fight against terrorism – Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to BFMTV

Paris, 3 November 2020

Q. – Does Europe stand solidly behind Austria this morning?

THE MINISTER – Yes, totally. The French President was the first to express France’s solidarity. After the attacks we ourselves have again experienced from Islamist terrorism in recent days, we’re obviously extremely moved and concerned by this Austrian tragedy. But yesterday evening the whole of Europe, as you’ve said, reacted in the firmest, clearest possible way, condemning this horror. And now we also need European action – not just solidarity – at various levels.

Q. – What action? Let’s go ahead, then, because that’s what everyone’s saying: “we’re in a very strong position to react” is what people are saying; I’m not saying… I mean, in order to act… basically it doesn’t prevent the terrorists from acting. What essential tools are missing?

THE MINISTER – Well, first this realization isn’t enough, but it’s essential and it’s new, it’s new, this very strong solidarity…

Q. – Since 2015 it hasn’t been new.

THE MINISTER – Of course, but I think this time it’s been expressed very strongly. But you’re right, we need action. This applies to every field we’re involved in upstream, in other words the external operations we carry out, including far away, in the Sahel, in Africa, to combat Islamist terrorism. For a long time we French were very much alone in these operations; that’s less true today. We have several European countries, including countries in eastern and northern Europe, that are with us on the ground. We must step up this action further, but it’s clearly essential. It concerns everyone.

Q. – Essential but not sufficient.

THE MINISTER – Not sufficient.

Q. – On this issue, one gets the impression it’s the sovereignty of States that prevails every time.

THE MINISTER – Of course. As you know, for a long time the issue was regarded as peculiar to a few countries. All the people who have been telling us in recent days that it’s a problem of French laïcité [secularism] (1) can clearly see this has nothing to do with it. It’s European values that are under attack, so there’s a clear realization now. So we have to take pre-emptive action, not all alone, on these terrorist fronts…

Q. – How?

THE MINISTER – Militarily, militarily, of course.

Q. – Militarily, even though the terrorists are sometimes locals?

THE MINISTER – I’m coming to that. It’s not enough, of course, it’s not enough, but we can clearly see there’s a continuity between external action and what we’re doing domestically. That also means intelligence, of course; our police forces are cooperating much better. Three years ago the President launched an initiative to coordinate intelligence services. It’s existed for a few months; it’s the Intelligence College in Europe.

It also means being more serious at our borders, to analyse and protect; we now have European border guards; we must develop this further. And it also means joint European judicial actions. This year we’ve created the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, but it doesn’t yet focus on terrorism; we’re proposing this should be the case in the coming months. And then there’s an issue – we’ll see if it’s the case today, but you mentioned it with regard to the spreading of content that sometimes incites to radicalization, to terrorism, online; we also need European action on this point. And I think in the next few weeks, if not days, we’ll have European legislation on this to ban content that drives people into radicalization.

Q. – Does the terrorist attack in Vienna drive us, or will it drive France, to increase or change anything in the counter-terrorist operation that was deployed last week following the attack at the basilica in Nice?

THE MINISTER – Listen, there will be a decision at the Defence Council on whether there should be any additional measures. But we haven’t had to wait for the Vienna attack to take measures, to step up our actions and our alert level; that’s what the Prime Minister has announced in the past few days. So I believe the Vienna attack unfortunately confirms the seriousness of the alert, and if there have to be any additional measures, of course we’ll take them. But above all, sadly, it confirms the necessity of our battle and the validity of our battle, which isn’t only a French battle./.

(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the State.

Published on 04/11/2020

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