Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti disclosed last week the the Italian government is ready to “positively evaluate” any request for air base or air space use in the US airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Libya if that would yield “a more rapid and effective end” to the campaign.
The minister made the comments in response to questions in the Chamber of Deputies about the airstrikes, which were launched on the IS stronghold town of Sirte. Pinotti further disclosed that the US military action, which began last week “will be limited in time and area of operation, doesn’t foresee the use of ground forces and is limited to allowing the Libyan forces to successfully defeat the terrorist forces in the area of Sirte,” adding, “the government is ready to positively evaluate any request for use of bases and air space if that would be functional to a more rapid and effective conclusion to the operation underway.” She noted that so far, the US airstrikes have not involved flights over Italian territory however she added that Premier Matteo Renzi’s government “contends that the success of the fighting aimed at eliminating terroristic centres of ISIS (IS) in Libya is of fundamental importance for the security not just of that country, but also of Europe and Italy.”
On Tuesday 2 August, Italy’s foreign minister disclosed that stabilizing Libya would also help control the migrant crisis. Migrant smugglers have exploited conflict and chaos in Libya to launch boats from its long Mediterranean coast carrying hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and other refugees from Africa and the Middle East to Italian shores.
Premier Renzi has in the passed repeatedly stressed that Italy would support anti-IS action in Libya only if the UN-brokered unity government requested such raids. Earlier this year, the Italian government disclosed that armed US drones could use the Sigonella base if needed to protect US military forces in anti-IS strikes in Libya however it stressed that it would not allow the Sicilian base to be used for offensive purposes. US President Barack Obama authorized the Pentagon to open a new, more persistent front against IS insurgents in Libya after the internationally backed government asked for help with precision targeting inside Sirte.
Police operations carried out in Mons and Liege last week resulted in two brothers being arrested on suspicion of carrying an attack on the country.
One of the men arrested, named only as Nouredine H, 33, has ben charged over an alleged plot to attack Belgium. He is accused of attempting to commit a “terrorist murder” and participation in the activities of a terrorist organization and was arrested along with his brother Hamza H. Hamza H. has since been released from police custody without charge. The raids were carried out by federal police in the cities of Mons and Liege, with officials disclosing that no weapons or explosives were found during the operations. In a statement, the federal prosecution office disclosed that “based on provisional results from the investigation, it appears that there were plans to carry out an attack somewhere in Belgium.” The French version of the statement referred to “planning attacks” in the plural.
Belgium is currently on security alert level three, of four, effectively meaning that the threat is considered serious, possible and probable. In March, thirty-two people were killed after attacks were carried out on Brussels Airport and a metro station in the city. Last month, Belgian police disclosed that they had received warning that a group of so-called Islamic State (IS) fighters had recently left Syria and were heading to Europe to plan attacks in Belgium and neighbouring France.
On 13 July, the European Commission proposed more unified European Union (EU) asylum rules in what is the latest bid to stop people waiting for refugee status moving around the bloc and disrupting its passport-free zone.
Last year, in an unprecedented wave of migration, 1.3 million people reached the European continent, with most ignoring legal restrictions and instead opting to trek from the Mediterranean coast to apply for asylum in Germany. This prompted some EU countries to suspend the Schengen Area system, which allows free passage between most EU states.
The new proposal would standardize refugee reception facilities across the bloc and unify the level of state support that they can get, setting common rules on residence permits, travel papers, access to jobs, schools, social welfare and healthcare. It would grant prospective refugees swifter rights to work, however it would also place more obligations on them, effectively meaning that if they do not cooperate with the authorities or head to an EU state of their choice rather than staying put, their asylum application could be jeopardized. The Commission has stated that the five-year waiting period after which refugees are eligible for long-term residence would be started if they move from their designated country. According to EU Migration Commissioner Dimitis Avramopoulos, “the change will create a genuine common asylum procedure,” adding that “at the same time, we set clear obligations and duties for asylum seekers to prevent secondary movements and abuse of procedures.”
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has already indicated that it has concerns about the new rules, stating that the new system must not lower standards of protection and asylum.
The plan, which will be reviewed by EU governments and the European Parliament, comes after Brussels proposed in May a system for distributing asylum seekers, an idea that has been opposed by eastern EU states, which refuse to accept refugees. The Commission has reported that only 3,056 people have so far been relocated under the scheme that was meant for 160,000 people. Both Hungary and Slovakia have challenged the system in the courts.
Last year, a record number of terrorist attacks were planned, foiled or carried out within European Union (EU) countries, with the United Kingdom reporting the highest number of attacks.
EU law enforcement agency Europol has reported that in 2015, there were 211 attack, the highest since records began in 2006. The failed, foiled and completed terrorist attacks occurred in six EU member states: Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK. Of these countries, the UK had the highest number of attacks, 103 in total, in which most are believed to have been in Northern Ireland.
France had the highest number of planned, foiled or completed attacks – 72 – followed by Spain with 25. A spokeswoman for Europol has disclosed that it did not have a breakdown of the number of terror attacks that had actually been carried out in the EU.
According to the agency’s EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, there were 1,000 arrests for terrorist-related offences last year, in which 424 occurred in France. Europol has further reported that more than half of arrests that occurred in the EU – 687 – were “for jihadist terrorism,” adding that of these arrests, 94% were later found guilty in court. In addition to the jihadist terrorist arrests, there were 67 arrests for left-wing terror; 11 for right-wing terror; and 168 separatist. A further 144 arrests were unspecified. Europol has reported that 151 people died and that more than 360 were injured in terrorist incidents that occurred last year.
In its report, Europol states that “as in previous years, the attacks specifically classified as separatist terrorism accounted for the largest proportion, followed by jihadist attacks.” Europol also noted that the report outlines two “worrying developments,” stating that “the overall threat is reinforced by the substantial numbers of returned foreign terrorist fighters that many member states now have on their soil, and the significant rise in nationalist (xenophobic), racist and anti-Semitic sentiments across the EU, each resulting in acts of right-wing extremism.” While Europol has indicated that there was “no concrete evidence to date that terrorist travellers systematically use the flow of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed,” it noted that two of the men who carried out the 13 November terror attacks in Paris France, which killed 130 people, had entered the EU through Greece as part of the influx of refugees from Syria.
The report also highlighted that nuclear power plants and nuclear weapon facilities in the EU “remain potential targets for terrorists,” as does “the deliberate contamination of water supplies,” adding “explosive remnants of war and illicit trafficking in explosives from former conflict areas present a significant threat to the EU.” The report goes on to state that “chemical facilities or companies, especially these perceived as having a low profile until recently, can become a vulnerable target,” adding, “terrorists prefer the use of conventional firearms and explosives because of their availability, simplicity and effectiveness. Europol also described cyber terrorism as “high potential but currently low probability.”
As the result of the referendum regarding the UK’s membership in the EU begin to sink in it seems more and more people are now at first coming to terms with what it actually means to exit the union. It’s been reported from different sources that supporters of the leave campaign, the so called “Brexiters”, are starting to have regrets. Regarding the many millions of pounds that were said, in the campaign, could be allocated to the NHS instead of the EU in case of an exit it has become clear now that such promises cannot be made. This is just an example, but there are many things that, in light of the actual outcome of the vote, look slightly different from what was described in the campaign. It seems twisted facts, statistics and general numbers were used in campaigns on both sides and it should be no wonder if people feel misinformed or even set up to cast their vote in a certain way. The fact that some who did vote for a Brexit feel disappointed with the outcome of the vote all the same, motivating this with that they didn’t think it would come to this, really says something about the seriousness with which voters have approached the referendum. It almost seems it has been thought of as a trial or a test run, something in which one can cast a vote just for amusement, and which, after it’s clear that the UK has decided to leave the EU, has alarm bells ringing everywhere. It is fair to say that to hold a referendum on things like this, to let the people have a voice, is consonant with democratic values. Of course it is, but then people also need to understand the power of every vote. Or is it that people were fully aware that the economy would take a hit in case of a Brexit, but decided to cast their vote in favour all the same because they simply thought things couldn’t get any worse, and that while things get harder short-term the economic situation will improve in the long run. Many voters from economically depressed regions of the UK, who actually receive significant amounts of EU aid, voted, as it turns out, in favour of a Brexit. The fact that the economy would be negatively affected is no surprise either, the IMF predicted this way in advance of 23 June. The outcome of the referendum is indeed hard to analyse, trying to make sense of peoples’ motivation to vote in certain ways can be quite confusing. One of the most important drivers has been the question of migration, the general desire of decentralised power and for the UK to control its own borders. It seems many voters have focused hard on that, and by doing so all the other effects a Brexit would have on the country have been forgotten. The UK is not the only country where people feel this way, but over the last couple of years across the European Union there has been talks about how the increasingly centralised political power is damaging the sovereignty of nation states. Using this as an argument in a campaign to leave the EU is putting fuel on a fire that is already burning quite bright. The question about an EU membership has been an emotional one for many, and it’s likely that a fair share of the “Brexiters” just want to go back to the way things were before, a form of status quo. Whether or not there will actually be any “old ways” to go back to is questionable though, not only because globalisation is really only going in one direction and it is increasingly harder for nations to get by on their own, but also because the UK itself will likely see internal changes. The decision to leave the EU has sparked up conversation about referendums of independence here and there, causing the United Kingdom to resemble more a soon to be broken kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, has said that it is highly likely a second referendum on independence for Scotland will be held amid the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Perhaps the result of such a vote would differ from the first one, held in 2014, as it was clear after 23 June that a majority of the Scottish voters were in favour of remaining in the EU. Sinn Fein also called for a referendum on independence form the UK for Northern Ireland, and a reunification with the 26 counties that make up the republic of Ireland. Considering all the potential negative consequences of the decision that may have been overlooked or at least given less consideration than necessary it is fair to expect that more and more people will have regrets in the near future. A petition to hold a second referendum had gathered millions of signatures in only a few days, and since it passed the minimum requirement of 100 000 signatures Parliament will consider it for debate. As David Cameron who promoted the stay campaign will step down as Prime Minister it will be his successor who will deal with the UK-EU divorce. In other words it will take time before article 50 will be applied and an application for an exit will officially be submitted. The question is whether there will be an opportunity in that time to grant the petitioners a second referendum. Perhaps the Britons will be offered a second chance at having a say in this since it is rather obvious many of the voter didn’t really know what it was exactly they were having a say in, or perhaps they have made their bed, so to speak, and now they’ll have to lie in it.