The Heritage Foundation

Executive Summary #2073 on Europe

October 3, 2007

October 3, 2007 | Executive Summary on Europe

Executive Summary: How Europe and America Should Confront IslamicExtremism

The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

Through immigration and demographic changes, Europe's Muslim population has grown exponen­tially in recent years. Because of this, several experts and commentators have predicted doomsday sce­narios for Europe, forecasting majority Muslim pop­ulations in major European cities within a decade. Mark Steyn, author of America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, envisages the Islamization of Europe by the end of the 21st century.

The disaffection of significant segments of the Muslim population in Europe has coincided with a growth in terrorist activity. In a November 2006 speech, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Director General of the Security Service (MI5), announced that British security services had iden­tified over 1,600 individuals actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts at home and abroad involving some 200 British-based terrorist networks. The foiled attacks by Islamic terrorist cells in Germany and Denmark stand as ominous signs of the level of threat facing Europe.

However, this is not just a European problem. Knowing that Europe is a logistical and fundrais­ing base for both domestic and international ter­rorist plots, including the September 11 attacks, both the United States and Europe need to con­front al-Qaeda and other extremist groups head-on. The atrocities committed by Islamic terrorists in Washington, New York, Madrid, and London were attacks on the principles of freedom and lib­erty that define Western civilization. Al-Qaeda and its allies have targeted innocent civilians in Europe, America, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and Central Asia and will continue to advance their borderless war on Western values and attempt to break the West's will to fight an asymmetric "long war."

A united transatlantic response and commitment to what is currently an indeterminable timetable for victory is not only necessary, but essential if Europe and America are to confront the domestic and glo­bal network of extremists intent on annihilating the West and its allies.

What the U.S. and Europe Should Do. The United States and its European allies should take a number of steps to confront Islamic extremism. Specifically:

  • The EU needs to be more receptive to transat­lantic information sharing and agree to an umbrella agreement accepting U.S. data privacy standards as adequate to permit the transfer of information.
  • The United States, United Kingdom, and European Union should coordinate their lists of designated foreign terrorist organizations as closely as possible. Congress should con­tinue its steady pressure on the European Union, and President Bush should use the recent détente in French-American relations to press for Hezbollah's inclusion on the EU's official list of foreign terrorist organizations.
  • Prime Minister Brown should carefully assess which EU policies are in the British interest and sign on only to those that demonstrably add value. Britain should withdraw from the Euro­pean Convention on Human Rights and formu­late alternate arrangements that are specifically commensurate with British interests. Britain should also oppose proposals in the forthcoming EU Reform Treaty that would supranationalize key areas of police and judicial policy.
  • Joint EU counterterrorist activities should be pursued through a mutual recognition approach rather than a supranational one.
  • Britain should vigorously enforce exclusion and deportation from the U.K. for individuals who engage in unacceptable behaviors and should continue to prosecute high-profile Islamists who threaten public order.
  • Poland and the Czech Republic should con­tinue to pursue negotiations with the United States on missile defense.
  • The U.S. Congress and the Administration should carefully implement the changes in the Visa Waiver Program with flexibility and bi­lateral alliance-building in mind. The system that is finally introduced should minimize travelers' inconvenience and recognize frequent trusted travelers.
  • Congress should support Poland's entry into the Visa Waiver Program.

Conclusion. Peter Wehner, former director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, recently commented that it has fallen to the West, particularly the United States, to deal with Islamic extremism. European directives, regulations, and communiqués will not win the war on terrorism. The EU has a specific role in coordinating intergov­ernmental action and even cooperating on a multi­lateral basis with third parties, but it should not be seen as a replacement for the valuable relationships and bilateral alliances that the United States has carefully crafted over decades.

When Irish republican terrorists attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with a bomb at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984, she famously held her ground and declared that terrorism would never destroy democracy. On 9/11, Islamic terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people, including 67 British citizens, and America and Britain were called upon to react with equal resolve and vigor. Just as Prime Minister Thatcher stood firm in 1984, and just as she and President Ronald Reagan faced down the Soviet Union and won the Cold War, American and British leadership will once again be required to stand up to a hostile and motivated enemy and defeat the enemies of freedom and liberty.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heri­tage Foundation. The author is grateful to James Dean, Deputy Director of Government Relations, Foreign and Defense Policy, at the Heritage Foundation for his advice on reform of the Visa Waiver Program. Erin Magee, an intern in the Davis Institute, and Maria Ver­banac, Administrative Assistant in the Thatcher Center, assisted in preparing this paper.

About the Author

Sally McNamara Senior Policy Analyst, European Affairs

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