Brussels attacks also shatter confidence in Europe’s open borders – Los Angeles Times

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The physical damage was easy to see. The attackers’ bombs shattered an airport terminal and a subway station.

But when one of the European Union‘s top leaders expressed his sympathies to the men, women and children hurt and killed in Brussels on Tuesday morning, he hinted that the three attackers purportedly acting on behalf of the extremist group Islamic State had caused even greater damage.

“These attacks have hit Brussels today, Paris yesterday,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “But it is Europe as a whole that has been targeted.”

When the European Union was created in 1993, one of its founding principles was the notion of open borders and free travel among member nations. But this week’s bombings in Belgium and a similar wave of attacks last year in France have raised questions about whether that very openness has left the continent too vulnerable.

Full Coverage: Terrorist attacks in Brussels >>

Raising the level of concern is a massive influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East that has prompted several nations to throw up razor-wire barricades and tough new security checkpoints.

Top European Union officials this week were using the widespread public alarm over the Belgian attacks to call for stronger coordination and information-sharing between European countries. While many of those who have mounted attacks so far are third- or fourth-generation Europeans, some political leaders have expressed concern that the large number of arrivals from war-torn Syria could allow militants to gain unlimited access to countries across Europe.

“Right now we are at the peak of two crises: security and migration,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said Wednesday.

“While they overlap in timing, they should not be confused. Those people who have arrived on our shores are precisely fleeing the same terror that has struck us, right here in the heart of Europe. To antagonize those seeking protection would be giving in to the hatred and division that terrorists seek to sow.”

Avramopoulos emphasized that the so-called Schengen Agreement, which abolished internal borders to allow free travel between member nations — “is not the problem.”

“But let me also say that we cannot have a secure area of internal free movement without better control of our external borders,” he said.

The apparent ability for Islamic militants to plan and carry out attacks in Europe will probably bolster right-wing politicians who have called for European governments to turn away refugees fleeing countries like Syria and Afghanistan and to heavily police predominantly Muslim communities.

“This is really the fruition of fears that people have had,” said Edwin M. Smith, a professor of law, international relations and political science at USC. “In the European Union now, there are lots of right-wing xenophobes across Europe who have been pushing to limit the European Union, and now you have an event that gives fodder to that fire.”

In Germany, the country’s “open doors” policy to migrants arriving in Europe led to large victories in regional elections in March for the right-wing, populist Alternative for Germany party.

One of the party’s co-leaders controversially suggested in one newspaper interview that “police must stop migrants crossing illegally from Austria, and, if necessary, use firearms,” a comment that immediately drew an outcry.

The head of France’s far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, was already citing the Brussels attacks as validation of her views.

Brussels attacks also shatter confidence in Europe’s open borders – Los Angeles Times