EU's patchwork of anti-terror laws leaves it vulnerable

EU's patchwork of anti-terror laws leaves it vulnerable
Members of GIPN and of RAID, French police special forces, are pictured in Corcy, near Villers-Cotterets, north-east of Paris.

EUROPE - Governments across Europe are rushing to draw lessons from the terrorist attacks in France, but although anti-terrorism cooperation between European states has never been better, there is still no political consensus on how to improve security on the continent.

The first priority is to prevent any copycat attacks which either try to emulate the murders in Paris or "avenge" the perpetrators.

Security chiefs in Britain have raised the threat level from "substantial" to "severe", meaning an attack is "highly likely".

Protection has been tightened considerably around French embassies and community centres, particularly in London, home to about 250,000 people of French origin or nationality.

Large police forces have also been deployed around synagogues and Jewish schools in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and a special meeting of European Union (EU) interior ministers will take place later this week to coordinate further measures.

Meanwhile, commanders of anti-terrorist units and special forces in Europe are poring over the details of the French security operation last week.

There is widespread admiration for the way French uniformed personnel acted, especially since not one but two different French special forces were involved: the "Intervention Group" which belongs to the paramilitary Gendarmerie and is responsible only for security outside main towns, and the elite Raid (Research, Assistance, Intervention and Dissuasion) police unit, which works in big cities.

This division of responsibilities was often criticised by France's allies as superfluous and potentially dangerous.

However, when the crisis struck last week, it did not prove a hindrance, and the political leadership provided by President Francois Hollande and his Cabinet was firm.

Still, what happened in France amounts to the worst nightmare for special forces: the need not only to act simultaneously against multiple terrorist threats, but also to storm multiple terrorist hideouts at the same time, as the French had to do last Friday.

British and German military commanders are now revamping their own contingency training to make sure they have the necessary resources for similar eventualities.

The numbers involved are huge: At the height of last week's crisis, some 85,000 French police officers and soldiers were engaged.

Yet beyond the confines of the intelligence and military communities, Europe's political class is already bickering over the longer- term strategy of dealing with such challenges.

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