Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) call for unity and a robust response to terror attacks, in parallel with additional efforts promoting fundamental freedoms and integration.
In a debate with Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who announced upcoming EU initiatives such as strengthening Europol’s mandate and an action plan on integration and inclusion, MEPs pointed to the need to further close the gaps and loopholes in existing counter-terrorism legislation and in its implementation. At the same time, measures promoting integration into our societies, education and non-discrimination should be further developed and supported.
Several members referred to the need to urgently tackle online aspects of radicalisation and hate speech. Some called for inter-institutional negotiations on legislation that would require terrorist content to be removed from the internet to be concluded immediately, whereas others considered it equally important to reach a balanced outcome, protecting fundamental rights and freedom of expression.
Specifically MEP Manfred Weber Chair of the European People’s Party in the Parliament highlighted that “victims are at the heart of [terrorist] attacks”, adding that “over the last 22 months, 119 terrorist attacks had occurred in Europe.” The parliamentarian reasoned that “terrorists are supported and are fighting against democracy”. He called for online content promoting terrorism to be deleted and a directive on weapons to be implemented that would regulate arms.
MEP Iraxte Garcia Perez on behalf of Socialist and Democratic Group explained that it is important to distinguish between “Islam as a religion and extremist Islam which is terror”.
“Zero tolerance against those who are intolerant” was the view expressed by MEP Maite Pagazaurtundua speaking on behalf of Renew Group.
MEP Nicolas Bay focused on addressing the concerns of migration and countries such as Pakistan and Turkey which he considered a threat to democracy and values. Speaking on behalf of the Identity and Democracy Group, Bay pointed to the evidence recognising that “The last 3 attacks in France were perpetrated by people of immigrant backgrounds: It was a Pakistani who attacked journalists in Paris; it was a Chechen who slit the throat of a teacher in Conflans; it was a Tunisian, freshly arrived via Lampedusa, who murdered 3 people in a church in Nice.” Bay, in addressing the Commissioner stated “You are showering countries like Pakistan and Turkey with subsidies and customs facilities. We want to sanction them!”
“Terrorism is born out of hatred and division amongst those who feel they are oppressed” declared French MEP Salima Yenbou on behalf go the Greens/European Free Alliance , calling for a focus on addressing disinformation and illiteracy.
Italian MEP Nicola Procaccini on behalf of European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Parliament reminded the parliamentarians that Europe was rooted in Christian values and it was impossible to have discussions on religious freedoms without naming Islam and identifying the differences.
French MEP Manon Aubry Co-Chair of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left in the Parliament made a plea that “we cannot make Islam a scapegoat” but she added that “We need to track the money laundering and identify those states who finance the jihadists. We need to look at how the jihadists can recruit”. Similarly Italian MEP Laura Ferrara, who is a politically Non-Aligned Member of the Parliament also called for mechanisms to combat financing for terrorism and access to arms, as she raised concerns that protecting fundamental rights and ensuring security was a fine balance for policy makers.
The European Parliament is currently preparing a resolution in response to the recently published EU Security Union Strategy by the Commission, to be put to the vote at a future plenary session.
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