The most significant statement uttered by a European leader after the latest jihadist slaughter of innocent civilians in a Berlin Christmas market was made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she said: “We will continue to support those persons who are asking to integrate in our country.”
It takes courage to overcome the strong emotions hours after a new horrific attack and to make sure that rage will not prevail against anyone even remotely suspected of being involved with wide scale or incidental terrorism. The most cynical members of society are indeed tempted to say: “We must stop those people who are pushing to be integrated” because they are ready to bite the hand that feeds them. This attitude may lead us to surrendering any real possibility of establishing coexistence among people who live in a certain territory.
We live in a world that is becoming less and less secure but this frightening development is not the consequence of people who flow in from other countries but rather of those political leaders who are incapable of facing those global disruptions that cause a continuing holocaust in our globe.
Chancellor Merkel is right in saying something that we have not heard from the man who was just elected president of the United States, the acceptance of the simple imperative of helping those who have lost everything and have no hope of living a peaceful life. The exclusion of people who may be potential terrorists will not guarantee by itself that terrorism will be stopped at our doors. Ideally, peace is the only way to neutralize terrorism but lacking that, civilized nations must think of other acceptable steps to protect themselves. First thing first, they must cooperate better than they do today.
Terrorists are moving far too easily across borders as the case of the Tunisian terrorist just killed in Milan shows. He started in Italy, went to Germany and from Berlin he reached by train France and then Italy.
Chancellor Merkel has said the right thing but she may pay a heavy price for that. The person who committed the heinous crime in Berlin was indeed a refugee or a person who had asked but not received asylum in Germany. Unfortunately, due to insufficient communications with Tunisia and Italy, he was not turned back. Today’s Germany is feeling less safe and the words and actions of the far right nationalists will make the country even more preoccupied with the safety of its people. The terrorists are changing the mentality of people not only in Germany but in France, another country exposed to the terrorist onslaught, in Belgium and England. In Germany, Chancellor Merkel will see her parliamentary support erode in the course of next year, with possible serious consequences on political stability in Germany.
Finally, one must not ignore one tragic cause for the incessant terrorist attacks in Europe and Turkey: the killing fields in Syria. The European investigators do not know for sure whether such attacks are committed by “lone wolves” or organized terrorist cells but they suspect that the genesis of many of them is in the Syrian conflict. The obvious danger is that the massacres perpetrated in Syria may help Islamic terrorist organizations to radicalize refugees who had already received asylum in Germany and elsewhere. It is also clear that “lone wolves” and terrorist cells are part and parcel of the same terrorist pattern.
There are more than a million refugees in Germany; many came from Syria through the Greek shores. At this time, many more leave from Libya and are rescued by the Italian navy in the Mediterranean. The terrorist Anis Amri was one of them. Italy is overwhelmed by a huge flow of migrants but Europe does far too little to help the Italians manage the onslaught. After Berlin, Italians hope that European authorities will engage more effectively. A lot rides on police work and for once Italians demonstrated the critical importance of street surveillance. Erecting barriers on public streets to protect the shoppers from destructive trucks is tragically not enough.