Fresh criticism of the US declaration of a Europe-wide terrorist threat was voiced today, this time from the Belgian interior minister, Annemie Turtelboom. The alert, whilst proceeded by similar warnings from Japan, Sweden and the UK, sparked outrage from many EU members, who objected to the broad and unfocused nature of the US declaration. The vast majority of EU states have yet to issue a substantiated terror warning.
Commenting on the alert issued on the 3rd of October, the minister pointed out that "the Americans issued a travel warning to their citizens to be vigilant if they travel in Europe, irrespective if it is Paris or London or my little village - everything was the same.” The minister also pointed out that unlike a single state, issuing a warning for the EU area was an inefficient and costly exercise. "[EU] member states are sharing intelligence, this is not an issue," Ms Turtelboom said. "But when the US is issuing a travel alert for the whole of Europe, we don't have a mechanism to react or to make our communication in the same way. So then it's 27 answers in a different way. To put it in short, this doesn't work," The timing of the release has also come under scrutiny. Many European governments were displeased that the US issued the warning without consulting them first, leading to many ministries being informed of the threat “by watching the news”.
A heightened state of security has existed in Western Europe for many months now, with France, Germany and the UK all taking additional precautions against a continuing "high abstract danger". Reports have pointed to the danger of a “Mumbai” style attack, where a combination of methods and weapons may be utilised in a prominent public location. However, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has stated that there is still no imminent danger of an attack, and "no reason to be alarmist at this time".
The controversy over terror warnings is compounded by the diverse range of public alert systems existing in Europe. Whilst the US alert was in fact a “travel advisory” statement, a level lower then a “threat warning”, the UK currently has Europe under a “severe” threat level, in which an attack is “highly likely”. The current French alert level of “red” is the second highest available on that scale, with Germany holding a similar level of warning. No EU wide threat assessment model exists.
In June the SDA hosted a roundtable entitled “Does the EU need Homeland Security?”, in which the current state of play in EU anti-terror policy was discussed.