The cold and calculated bombings in Brussels which claimed several lives should be condemned by all. Indications are they are either inspired by or linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the ideas it represents. The response of Belgium and ISIS has been on expected lines. Belgium demonstrated grit, determination and perseverance in pursuing and intensifying counter-terrorism operations — both before and after the attacks. There is, however, criticism that the West European State has been, despite being a part of the EU’s campaign against ISIS, a safe haven for Islamic radicals. A string of recent attacks in Europe, including the Paris massacre, have all led investigators to Belgium. Wednesday’s blasts, the first major strike in Brussels, which is at the heart of the EU, were in a way waiting to happen.
The ISIS, notwithstanding recent setbacks in Syria, has threatened more such attacks on “nations of crusaders”. Its defiance shows the terror outfit may be down but definitely not out. Now, it is up to the EU to strengthen its resolve to neutralise the terror threat. Europe has come together in this hour of grief to show solidarity with Belgium but the member-nations will have to firm up a strategy sooner than later to avert another tragedy. The EU needs to tackle the threat at two levels. First and foremost, it has to come up with policies to integrate the Muslim community into its society. This is easier said than done, given the rise of the right wing in the face of the massive influx of refugees.
A military response, hitherto largely ineffective in containing the ISIS, is unlikely to yield the desired results in the near future in the absence of strong leadership from the US. The bombing campaigns in Syria have only intensified the threat perception at home for all the EU nations. There is a need for course correction in handling the Syrian crisis. The ceasefire agreement arrived at recently with the involvement of Russia has raised hopes of concerted action against the ISIS. But differences between Russia and the US are threatening to take the issue back to square one once again. The EU cannot afford to let that happen.