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The multiple breaches and deficiencies in European security structures exposed in the Paris attacks throw a light on the Union’s unpreparedness for the threats of the modern era.
The continent’s defences were designed in another time, for a completely different set of threats. Practices and applications are outdated and ineffective against the terrorist menace, experts warn. “We lack the most obvious tools to deal with this threat,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism. “We’re blind.”
Another large-scale attack on European soil seems unavoidable, with European security agencies helpless to prevent it. A senior European intelligence official said, on condition of anonymity: “We have to figure out what went wrong and fix it as soon as possible. Because one thing is for sure: Islamic State will try to hit Europe again.”
The open border system without adequate coordination between Europe’s security forces foster the conditions for such attacks. There is no shared list of suspected extremists, nor a European biometric database. The lax border control in one country gravely affects the security of all. At least five of the Paris attackers have travelled to Syria, where they received extensive training and experience. They faced no barriers to returning to Europe, and even less preparing the attack. Most of them were known to the authorities, but had little trouble blending in with the 20,000 or so individuals flagged as security threats in France alone.
“The systems of European security that at one time were useful and effective are no longer adapted for this threat,” said Bernard Squarcini, former head of France’s General Directorate for Internal Security. “We are dealing with people who are cunning and determined. They’ve been in combat.”
The security apparatus of Europe is no longer adequate, and the Paris attacks have demonstrated it completely yet again. It is high time to create a new, better integrated, more effective system.