The recent beheading of Egyptian Copts working in Libya by ISIS and the subsequent air bombardment by the Egyptian air force of ISIS installations in Libya show how close the war and ISIS have come to Europe. If Syria and Iraq are considered still far from the EU heartland (although not in the eyes of EU member Cyprus), Libya is only a few hundred nautical miles away from the coasts of Italy, Malta and Greece. This is too close for comfort, as is the daily arrival on the EU’s Mediterranean shores of hundreds of refugees originating in or going through Libya, among which terrorists may be hiding.
This is not the whole story, though. Before coming in stealth from the sea the ISIS fighters or sympathizers already exist among us, as the terrorist attacks of recent weeks and months in Copenhagen, Paris and Brussels demonstrate. The enemy within and the enemy outside may not be able at the moment to challenge the security and stability of a rather well-developed and organized, a massive place of more than 500 million people that is Europe; but can certainly erode the sense of security, racial harmony and stability that people enjoy here. And as we know, the psychological factor is key for the success or not of political and economic undertakings, at the European, national or personal level.
What can Europe do to address these emerging threats that are getting closer and closer to its soil? What it can certainly not afford to do is stay idle and wait. Here are a few things that at least should be considered by the European leaders at their regular meetings, and by the EU Institutions that support the European project as a whole:
1. Create a joint command to patrol Europe’s southern and eastern borders and increase sea and air surveillance of the borders (feel free to do the same for the rest of the EU borders too, and thus also create in practice an EU Pillar that is missing in NATO);
2. Introduce proper immigration controls to deal with illegal immigrants from the south and elsewhere, but also allow for orderly legal migration and asylum application processing (see inter alia recent Katoikos.eu interview with Yves Pascouau);
3. Support peace-building and nation-building in Libya, with political and economic means, and help consolidate the stability of neighbouring countries, especially democratic ones like Tunisia;
4. Address internal EU problems of radicalization by promoting better inter-religious and inter-community respect and understanding, increasing employment opportunities and encouraging a sense of civic integration;
5. Create an integrated federal police force, along the lines of the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to fight terrorism and organized crime across EU state borders and coordinate national resources in that direction;
6. Be more consistent in practice to declared foreign policy objectives like the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and respect of human rights of and by all, including Europe itself.
If you think that measures along the above lines would move the EU closer to integration in defence and security matters, you are probably right, but that should not constitute a reason for panicking. On the contrary, one should start to worry about the future of a Europe facing determined enemies that stays fragmented and expects the US and others to do the heavy lifting for its security.