.@EU_Commission commemorates European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism "We wish to commemorate & pay tribute to all the lives that have been taken from us so tragically (…) No victim will be left behind in a Europe that protects." #SecurityUnion https://t.co/5Pkh5C8Po8 pic.twitter.com/9bIh3wlTwM
— Tove Ernst (@ToveErnst) 9 maart 2018
Starting in 2005, various European bodies have organised a European Remembrance Day for the victims of terrorism, in response to the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Not widely advertised, this year’s event seems to have been a decidedly low-key event. In 2017, the event was accompanied by a ‘joint statement‘ by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Vera Jourová and Julian King. This year, on 9 March, the EU only sent Security Union commissioner Julian King and Commissioner Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos.
To be fair, there was another joint statement. But a majority of its supposed authors have addressed neither their statement, or the Day of Remembrance. Timmermans didn’t tweet anything on 9 or 11 March, Mogherini was busy doing something else, and Jourová was obsessing over ‘illegal #onlinehatespeech‘ again. Only Avramopoulos and King mentioned the Day of Remembrance. It seems that, if they can’t get a photo-op out of it, it doesn’t exist.
Apart from the press release, there was, of course, a speech. Because you can’t have a
photo-opp day of remembrance without hollow platitudes a speech. Both the press release and the speech have one problem in common: they’re not actually about combating terrorism. One would think, reading Avramopoulos’ apocalyptic words:
“Every year, we commemorate more victims. More lives lost. More lives shattered. In Europe and beyond, terrorism represents the worst of mankind. Senseless violence against the innocent. Nihilism.
Hateful destruction. A direct attack on values we hold most dear: democracy, freedom, tolerance. A proliferation of victims,“
that there is going to some words on how to fight this growing threat. For a moment, he seems to be working towards such a plan:
“At a time, when it feels that the world is becoming ever more insular and polarised, we must gather all our strength to work against that. We cannot allow extremism to breed and fragment our society or prey on those who feel disadvantaged and marginalised.“
But then it all falls apart. The rest of the speech is about supporting victims.
“The bottom line of all this, is: our solidarity, our empathy, and our acknowledgement that we need to do better in responding to your needs. Europe is standing united against terrorism, and will continue to do so, in support of its victims.“
Sure, it’s important to take care of victims of terrorism and their relatives, but surely it’s evenly important to prevent new victims? Yet the only mention of preventive action, is in a very curious paragraph:
“You, the victims, the families and friends of the victims, are the most genuine ambassadors we have, to prevent others from being misled to acts of terrorism.“
Not only is this an awkward phrasing (“ambassadors” in general promote something positive), the idea behind it is, quite frankly, puzzling. What does it even mean to say people are ‘misled’ into acts of terrorism? Is this about the elephant in the room we’re not supposed to talk about? When Avramopoulos says ‘others are being misled‘, does he refer to Islam being used as a driving force behind terrorism? Or, as Europol puts it:
“Terrorist groups continue to exploit the socio-economic grievances of Muslim immigrants to the EU, in order to recruit and incite them to engage in terrorist activities. IS ideology has a certain appeal amongst segments of the Muslim population in the EU, sometimes expressing admiration for ‘martyrdom’. Motivations may generally include a belief that Islam is under attack from the West.“
Maybe it’s part of the ‘change in our way of thinking‘ Avramopoulos deems necessary when it comes to immigration, as he wrote in an opinion piece for Politico:
“At the end of the day, we all need to be ready to accept migration, mobility and diversity as the new norm and tailor our policies accordingly. The only way to make our asylum and migration policies future-proof, is to collectively change our way of thinking first.“
Oh, what’s that, Europol? Ah, yes.
“IS has already exploited the flow of refugees and migrants to send individuals to Europe to commit acts of terrorism, which became evident in the 2015 Paris attacks. IS and possibly other jihadist terrorist organisations may continue to do so.“
“Perpetrators of terrorist attacks in the EU include both foreigners, of whom a number may have resided in the EU for a long time, and nationals who have grown up in the countries they attacked.“
Best to ‘collectively change our way of thinking‘ and address terrorism as some sort of inescapable force of nature, with victims you have to take care of, not perpetrators you have to combat. Not a deadly threat to European values, like “online trolls“. The EU and Jihadist terrorism: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.“