THE BLOG

Foreign Policy Did Not Cause 'Charlie Hebdo' Terrorism, But Must Help Prevent Future Attacks

15/01/2015 13:05 GMT | Updated 17/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Richard Howitt MEP is Labour's European Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. This article is adapted from his parliamentary speech on the foreign policy consequences of the Charlie Hebdo attack, which he is pictured delivering in the European Parliament chamber (see photo)

je suis charlie

As Euro MPs convened for our monthly parliamentary session in France this week, the extraordinary emotional response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack has been shown to have evoked the same reaction across the whole of Europe.

A magazine and its journalists meant to make us laugh has suffered an attack which can only make us cry.

Beyond the proper expressions of grief and of solidarity, it is time to start to ask what a proper policy response should be?

In advance of a special meeting of EU Foreign Ministers due next Monday, "concrete action" has been promised.

Such action must be motivated by the emotion but determined by reason.

Reason says that the open societies which we enjoy will always be vulnerable, but that terrorism succeeds if we allow that very openness and freedom to be prejudiced.

In Britain, David Cameron cannot uphold the human right of freedom of expression by passing anti-terrorist laws which themselves infringe human rights.

So we must address the problem of foreign fighters, but Britain would be wrong to confiscate passports which might itself breach the UN Convention on Statelessness.

Listening to UKIP leader Nigel Farage's contribution to the debate, I was also dismayed a representative of a party which includes the proud name of my own country, stained the European Parliament chamber by using the memorial to blame immigration for the atrocity.

He should remember that the Charlie Hebdo attackers were all French citizens just as the London bombers were all British too.

That is not to dismiss a proper security response.

British Eurosceptics who resist a European Union role in the interests of our mutual security, should see that a suspect who is on a British watch list but not a French one, exposes a justifiable need for better intelligence sharing in Europe.

But my call in Parliament this week was for efforts on prevention of terrorism to guide our efforts abroad as well as at home.

Foreign policy did not cause these or other terrorist attacks.

There is no legitimate cause for the fighters, but there are causes as to why they fight.

Conflict in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq has allowed the threat to grow, and it will only be reduced if we intensify our efforts to end those conflicts.

We must work with countries in the wider Arab region to stop support for conflict and recognise that Western support for authoritarianism in some of those countries - now and in the past - has fuelled the grievances .

This is Europe's neighbourhood and disengagement, either through fear or through erecting barricades, is not an option.

Diplomatic tools, development aid and democracy-support can all play their part in countering radicalisation.

The weapons we need are cultural as well as military.

Our targets not just training camps but ideology.

As I told the emergency debate, we must support our French colleagues who champion their country's concept of vivre ensemble, or 'living together'.

And the correct foreign policy response to the Paris terrorist attack is that we must live together on our continent and live together beyond it.