OPINION

Commentary

The terrorist attack on the USA on September 11 was an act of horror, revealed the vulnerability of the international stock market system and dramatically confirmed that the sense of security is a relative concept, even for the citizens of the sole superpower. But all this merely forms the background to a new policy aiming at merging the USA’s internal security with that of its Western European allies. NATO’s decision to invoke Article 5 of its charter which pledges collective assistance to a member-state that has been subjected to an attack, conveys the impression that Washington’s European partners have acknowledged the new reality. In 1949, a Europe faced with the Soviet threat was militarily joined to America in order to confront communism, hence the birth of NATO. In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist strike, the USA is in need of European support and solidarity and its European partners essentially consented to the creation of a common internal security zone in order to tackle international terrorism. However, given the common Euro-Atlantic front when tackling issues of external and internal security and the undisputed superiority of the US economy vis-a-vis the European one – despite the present recession – it is quite within bounds to question Europe’s ability to become independent of the US. Of course, despite rhetoric about transatlantic solidarity, it is possible to sense an attempt by several European leaders to distance themselves from the USA. French President Lionel Jospin said on Friday that solidarity with the USA should not undo the national sovereignty of European states while a day earlier, German Defense Minister Rudolph Sharping expressed the hope that the USA will not succumb to hysteria and will respond in a rational fashion to the terrorist attack. The reservations of the European Left are a sign of embarrassment as its leaders are forced to fall in with the decisions of a conservative president – George W. Bush – and strengthen police measures in Western Europe, by-passing some of the democratic sensitivities with which Jospin and Sharping differentiated themselves from their domestic conservative opponents. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who has been promoting neoliberal economic policies, has been keen to distance himself from the right under the facade of democracy and denounce the police states of past right-wing governments. The strict police measures of a former period, however, were the result of a devastating civil war while policing today will be carried out in order to fight terrorism in its broadest sense, something that PASOK has rejected in the past. It is clear that as internal security issues come to the fore, the EU’s democratic values, individual rights and the principle of the open society will not be at the top of the European agenda in the years to come. Furthermore, questions such as what is the root cause of the problem cannot be studied at a time when a government – like the American one now – is suffering from the effects of a devastating event such as the recent terrorist strike. In cases like this, there is no room for broader reflection but only for an imperative need to act and this means the immediate reinforcement of repression and police mechanisms. The terrorist strike on the USA was something that no one expected and that no reasonable person approved of. However, the repercussions on Western societies and the rest of the world will likely be what no moderate citizen has ever desired. But this has always been the case in the history of humanity.