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MT 27 March 2016

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Opinion 23 maltatoday, SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2016 Opinion Defiance in the face of horror We are only as strong as we are united I t is hard to imagine a more difficult time for Belgium than in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Brussels. An uneventful start to a normal Tuesday was shattered by twin attacks on Brussels Airport and the metro station closest to the European Parliament and other EU institutions. I was in Brussels heading a meeting when the news came through. The shock around the table was tangible. The airport and metro station we all use so often had been bombed, innocent people were murdered by fanatics intent on attacking not only Belgium but everything that Europe stands for. It was the longest day I remember in Brussels. Everyone was on a knife edge waiting for the next attack. But while people were scared and concerned, there was a palpable feeling of defiance and resilience – a determination not to allow these murderous thugs to condition how we live our lives. A few hours after the attacks, as the full horror became known, people gathered in public spaces all around the Belgian capital to support one another and to show that despite being bruised they would not be beaten by terror. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker captured the mood perfectly saying "I am saddened but not desperate. Seeing the young generation sing and countering hate with a message of love, gives me hope". As politicians we have an even greater responsibility to ensure that these attacks do not serve to spread unacceptable racism or xenophobia. Of course we must respond (and we will) but our response must be rooted in our European value system that these killers so much despise. It is also true that the worst day brought out the best in people, with emergency responders, law enforcement and hospital workers doing their best in horrific circumstances. Nearby hotels morphed into field hospitals and everyone did what they could to help. With the airport closed, our own national airline, Air Malta led an outstanding effort to get the Maltese community back home to Malta, re- routing people and laying on buses to ensure we all made it back. As shock begins to give way to grief and anger, there is a realisation that we – all of us – are facing an enemy bent on our destruction, that must be defeated and Europe must have the tools to respond and to respond swiftly. Our law enforcement agencies must be able to be one step ahead of the criminals. Playing catch up is simply not good enough. To do this, we must also have a tough legislative response. The first step must be to strengthen Europol. Our law enforcement authorities need to speak to each other more and need to cooperate much better. If we do not have adequate sharing of information then criminals and terrorists will continue to exploit gaps in our intelligence apparatus. That cannot be allowed. We must also immediately implement what is called a Passenger Name Record System or PNR. This would allow our authorities to have access to the information of anyone catching a plane or arriving in Europe. This is legislation that has been on the table for months now but keeps getting blocked by the left wing groups in the European Parliament. We owe it to our citizens to ensure that we pass this cornerstone piece of legislation at the earliest opportunity and we should give real thought to extending this to other means of transportation too. States also need better powers to cancel and revoke passports of those who travel to Syria and other conf lict zones around the world only to return to Europe to recruit and radicalise more citizens. These so-called foreign fighters do not deserve the protection their European passports grants them. We have to be able to overcome the remaining legal obstacles as soon as possible. We must also come down much harder on hate preachers and those who spread hate within our communities as well as those who abuse the Internet to spread their message of evil. These people target vulnerable youth and we should counter their terrorist narrative that attracts people to the jihadist banner. The plan in Brussels was to kill as many people as possible indiscriminately. Men, women and children from every nationality, from every background and from every religion were killed. Like all people who have used public transport in Brussels, I know the proportionately high percentage of members of Brussels' Arab and Muslim community who use and work on the public transport system everyday. No one was spared. This was an attack on them too. This was an attack on all of us. Roberta Metsola is a Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola T he day when all lives matter just as equally still awaits for humanity. The attacks in France and Belgium made it to the headlines, but the ones in Turkey and Syria merely alerted some leaders or members of civil society. Egoism plays a very crucial role here, it highlights the indifference that underpins such situations. If all lives matter equally, then the terrorist attacks in Brussels wouldn't have dominated the news while hardly anyone barely expressed solidarity with the casualties in Ankara. The popular phrase that these barbaric acts are a threat to the values of Europe is very correct in principle. However, one must always keep in mind that as European citizens human rights are celebrated and granted to all humans. People are dying every day in every corner of the world, but we empathise with those who might have been us. This individualism is itself an attack on Europe and humanity as a whole. The leaders of the world spoke, there are those who sought to reach out for peaceful measures and called for unity while others took advantage of this to push forward their agendas against immigration and Muslims. Even here it is clear that there is an imbalance, the leaders of the nations react only when the Western world is under threat. If we fail to realise that this is not religious but purely political then there is no end. As misinformed as a Muslim person can be, killing in the name of God was not and will never be religious. Without separation of religion and state, every political point is made through religion. Immigrants from Syria have been escaping this very ideology and are seeking peace. They should not be scapegoated because they too are being persecuted. Fear must not blind us from understanding others. Closing borders and blaming the many innocent Muslims will definitely not bear fruit. The vulnerable people in the community are always those who will be targeted because if the state does not provide solutions, people will blame those who they feel superior to. The barbaric attacks in Ankara and Brussels are indeed a tragedy, however the greater the struggle the more glorious the triumph. It is time to look into measures which will benefit all humanity and honour those people who have died with more than just a status on social media because indeed the world cannot lose more precious souls. Sara Ezabe is a recipient of the Queen's Young Leaders Award Sarah Ezabe

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