Vigilance needs to be balanced with calm in fighting deadly scourge

Minister, your impressions of Greece are, as you said, highly favorable. But the problem of security is a global, not a local one, as is the spread of terrorism, which has grown to be the scourge of the era. In your view, does the problem have political causes or is it the result of poverty? Global Islamic terrorism is not the result of the divisions caused by poverty. I feel this is a faulty analysis. Terrorism is the result of other processes; it originates from the ideological deception by those who pull its strings. Bin Laden is not a poor man; he was extremely rich. Many of his followers come from the well-to-do classes. It is not easy for someone to analyze the political roots of Islamist terrorism. I cite here some of their proclamations, according to which there is a sharp dividing line between the world of the faithful and the world of the infidel. Of course, one should not overlook the fact that areas where there is poverty and inequality is a fertile recruiting ground for followers. In the Casablanca [bombing], the suicide bombers were young people from poor districts. Yes, terrorism has appeal; it meets with a response where there are social tensions, poverty, conflicts that have a political basis, such as the Israeli-Palestinian standoff. But the source of terrorism is the subject of a different analysis; the causes lie deeper. How much longer will the conflict with this form of terrorism last? Will we learn to live in a world dominated by DNA analyses, fingerprinting, control over personal data? In a world that is always on constant alert, as is the case in the USA? As far as duration is concerned, it’s not possible to make forecasts, no one is in a position to come up with estimates. Views differ. The problem is that even if we put a leading member of Al Qaeda behind bars, others spring up from elsewhere. They are like the Lernaian Hydra, you cut off one head and another 10 spring up in their place. You Greeks know that well… I personally fear that this situation will last for a long time yet. Nevertheless, we should not find ourselves in a constant state of alert and tension. On the contrary, I believe we should take advantage of all the capabilities offered by the state and society in order to organize our defense. We need to be vigilant, to learn to live with danger, but at the same time, to keep calm. This is the correct balance, vigilant, but calm. Is it so difficult to dismantle this organization? That is perhaps the most complex question. [Al Qaeda] is an organization with a a broad ideological base, of a type different from the terrorism we knew in Germany. [The latter] tried to entrench itself globally but in the end was only active regionally – with connections to local terrorism, weakened today: the Irish and the Basques. I repeat that I’m not a prophet; I can’t say whether Islamist terrorism will last five, 10 or 30 years. I’m afraid that it will dog us for a considerable period of time. One often gets the impression that there is no absolute consensus on security measures and combating the terrorist danger between the European Union and the USA, or individual European countries and the USA. Is that truly the case? We have different traditions, other methods of control. Americans don’t have identity cards nor are they obliged to declare their presence in a strange place. Whereupon one asks oneself whether that serves [the interests of] security or not. The Americans enforce various measures on their border, while here in Europe we have, in part at least, a different view of the issue. I can say that bilateral cooperation between Germany and the USA is excellent, the same applies to cooperation between the EU and the USA. And because you referred to biometric systems of control, what interests us is the general harmonization of specifications which we mooted as the basis for the biometric systems in question.

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