The Strasbourg Christmas market shooting has fanned the flames of a debate about how to keep Europe safe, with MEPs from opposite sides of the aisle providing RT with radically different views about what must be done.
The deadly attack in the northeast French city, which killed two people and left more than a dozen wounded, seems to have had a profound effect on EU parliamentarians – many of whom were present when their Strasbourg-based headquarters was put on lockdown following the shooting.
However, serious disagreement remains over how to move forward, with conflicting views on immigration, terrorism, and borders dominating the security debate.
Worried and angry
Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou, a member of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left, said that his deep concern for those stuck on the streets of Strasbourg during the attack quickly turned into anger.
“We were worried about our colleagues who were outside already. But there was also anger. Anger against those cowardly people killing innocent people passing by … Killing kids, tourists, what is this? It looks like they don’t have any kind of heart or soul,” he told RT.
The left-leaning MEP said that the parliament held a minute of silence for the victims of the attack – a practice that, according to him, was becoming far too frequent due to the regularity of similar attacks across Europe.
He thinks what needs to be done is “changing policies to find the sources of terrorism and to attack the resources of terrorism.”
Hailing from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Christine Arnautu – a French MEP for right-wing National Rally, and the party’s vice president for social affairs – also noted the solidarity displayed by parliamentarians following the attack. She warned, however, that candlelight vigils won’t keep France safe.
“Everyone has showed compassion, all the deputies, because these incidents are very traumatizing. But when it comes to real solutions … it is not enough to light up candles, to cry, to say, like they do all the time, ‘je suis Charlie’, ‘je suis Strasbourg’, ‘je suis Bataclan.’ No, we are France and we want France to live in peace.”
Integration or deportation?
The suspected gunman in the attack – 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, who was born in Strasbourg but whose family roots trace back to Morocco – has rekindled a longstanding debate in Europe over immigration and integration.
“We have to reintegrate the marginalized youth in the suburbs of Paris and Brussels and Strasbourg,” Kouloglou said. “Give them jobs. Give them hope for life. Because those are miserable, desperate people. And they end up doing such cowardly things.”
In order to create lasting security in Europe, the wars in the Middle East must be brought to an end, Kouloglou said. The Greek MEP also encouraged Europe to engage with “moderate Islam” and a stressed that stereotyping Muslims would only lead to more hate and violence.
His French colleague took a different approach, arguing that the act of “Islamic terrorism” shows that there are some who are incompatible with French values.
Arnautu urged France to expel all people currently on the country’s terror watch list, noting that Chekatt had been flagged but was still not stopped from carrying out an attack. She also accused immigrants of not being sufficiently loyal to the French state.
Having a nationality should mean something. And those people, hate France, hate our country, hate our culture, because of this there was no coincidence in the fact that it happened on a Christmas market
Ultimately, according to Arnautu, the Strasbourg attack should compel France to rethink its open borders with the rest of Europe, which has allowed for a “free circulation of people” resulting in “criminals” entering the country.
“It was said that this attacker has previously been in Germany or elsewhere. He might be crossing borders now. Every time we have such a tragedy, we get back to the topic of border control. For example tonight I believe the Franco-German border is controlled, but it’s too late.”
Clash of ideologies
Both parliamentarians believe something must be done to prevent further attacks on European soil – but a clash of ideologies may serve as a serious hurdle to comprehensive action that can be agreed upon.
“The right and the extreme right are trying to blame the refugees for the terrorist attacks,” Kouloglou said, adding that in reality, “almost all” such attacks are carried out by people holding European passports.
Returning to the issue of integration, the Greek MEP noted: “We don’t have to blame refugees or immigrants. We have to blame ourselves.”
He said that painting Islam and refugees with such a wide brush would only lead to more tragedy.
[The right] try to blame Islam as a whole and now refugees and immigrants. This is not solving the problem. You create more enemies, you create enemies among the refugees.
Arnautu, on the other hand, blamed Europe’s left-leaning and liberal parties for the continent’s security problems.
“There are ideologists, who, despite all the tragedy, the deaths we’ve been witnessing for the past six years, keep saying that we should be tolerant, we should live together,” she said.
“No, we don’t want to live together with them. And I think we will see a lot of bad things if we stay in this EU, instead of protecting our sovereignty.”
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