Magazine article Newsweek International

Look West, Europe; Go Further: Spain's Former President Urges the Continent to Ally More Fully with America in the War on Terror and in Economic Reform

Magazine article Newsweek International

Look West, Europe; Go Further: Spain's Former President Urges the Continent to Ally More Fully with America in the War on Terror and in Economic Reform

Article excerpt

Byline: Jose Maria Aznar (Aznar was president of Spain from 1996 to 2004.)

There is a war being waged by Islamic terrorism against Western values. And Europe must commit itself more strongly to this struggle. In recent years, particularly since September 11, the European Union has adopted a number of important measures, including the European Arrest Warrant, which signals the lifting of extradition barriers among European countries for especially serious crimes. However, I am convinced that we can go even further, coordinating our response to terror with our American allies.

Europe forms part of a wider community, the Western community. This community cannot be reduced to a geographical region, or an ethnic or linguistic group, but encompasses all societies based on the essential values of individual freedom, democracy and the free-market economy. Europe must set its own course, but only to the extent that its objectives bring it closer to this great community, which is afflicted by the threat of terrorism precisely because its values have made it prosperous and powerful. The threat is neither new nor confined to our nations, but the magnitude of the attacks, and the resources employed, constitute a veritable war. I sometimes feel that Europe lacks a realistic perception of the threat, and that some European leaders focus more on distinguishing their governments' actions from those of America than on forming a united front against a threat that hangs over all of us.

For eight years I presided over a government whose main priority was to defeat terrorism. I was able to confirm that it is possible to defeat terrorism by presenting an unwavering front. When I handed over my responsibilities as president, the terrorist group that has murdered more than 800 people in Spain since 1968 was much weaker than eight years before. Experience has taught me that terrorists view every conciliatory gesture as a sign of weakness. If appeasement is a rather ineffective strategy in general, it is practically suicidal when it comes to combating terrorism. We will defeat terror only through strength and determination, never doubting for one moment the importance of this enterprise.

Although hardly comparable to terrorism in terms of importance, there is a second task that European leaders must undertake in order to ensure convergence with the rest of the Western community. …

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