The State of Freedom in Europe

Published date01 November 2015
Date01 November 2015
The State of Freedom in Europe
Conor Gearty
Abstract: The reaction to 11 September damaged the liberty of those living in Europe
who found themselves targeted as suspect terrorists while seeming to do little to ensure
the security of the wider community. More recently a second emergency, rooted this time
in the f‌inancial and economic collapse of 2008 onwards, has caused a further unravelling of
Europes constitutional project, even threatening the gains of past generations of European
idealists. In todays Europe universal liberty and security have no meaning for many even if
their shape is retained in structures that in truth mock rather than deliver democracy and
human rights. This article traces the origins of the crises that have aff‌licted so directly the
breadth of liberty and human security in the Union, demonstrating their roots in viruses
that have been present from the start of the European movement but which have now
spiralled out of control. The essay ends by asking what can be done to prevent the full
decline of the region into a state of neo-democratic/post-democratic unfreedom, one in
which capital unbound from democracy thrives at the expense of the people.
I Introduction
The attacks by Al-Qaidaon New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 produced
an immediate response from the European Union despite its relatively remote location
from the events.Within a day, an emergency Councilof the EU was expressing its horror
at the atrocities.
Shortly afterwards, a special EuropeanCouncil was staged, with various
policies being hastily created and just as speedily promulgated, the EU quickly casting
itself as one of the leading partners of the global coalition against terrorism.
Commission president Romano Prodi spokein a Brussels Islamic Centre of the European
Councilsfull solidarity with the American people in the face of terrorist attacksbefore
rushing to the USA to repeat himself in person.
The European Parliam ent issued its
own resolution.
The steady implementation of a range of counter-terrorism initiatives
followed in the 12months immediately following 11 September,
since when the powers
authorised in these heady counter-terrorist times have been methodically followed up by
diligent off‌icials. Subsequent attacks,some still far af‌ield as in Kenya and Bali but others
closer to home (Madrid on 11 March 2004, London on 7 July 2005, Bulgaria on 18 July
* Professor of Human Rights Law, Director of the Institute of Public Affairs LSE; Barrister, Matrix Chambers.All
web pages have been accessed on 8 September 2015.
See EU PresidencyStatement, September11 Attacks in the US, availableat
EU Response to the 11 September: European Commission Action, available at
Speech by the President of the European Commission on His Visit to the Brussels Islamic Centre,27
September 2001, available at
Available at
See EU Response to the 11 September: European Commission Action, above, n 2 for full details of the
effective contributionbeing made by the EU during this period.
European Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 706721.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
2012 and Paris on 7 January 2015
), have precipitated further, energetic engage-
ment: a comprehensive edited collection by Fiona de Londras and Josephine
Doody attests to the richness and variety of the f‌ield.
As Christina Eckes notes
in her survey of one of the main areas of activity, we now have 29 different sanc-
tion regimes operating within the EU, 13 of them are responses to United Nations
(UN) interventions but the rest are autonomous to the EU.
Cian Murphys mono-
graph likewise traces in detail the plethora of measures in the f‌ields of, inter alia, money
laundering, data retention and warrants of arrest that have f‌lowed under this broad
The era of EU counter-terrorism has clearly well and truly arrived, fed on a
dependable diet of recurring atrocity.
But why, ormore specif‌icallywhy now? More than any other region, it had been
Europe that had been exposed to the worst of international terrorism in the 1970s and
1980s, Member States had seen their airports turned into killing f‌ields, their cities
bombed, a cruise ship hijacked, even one of the worlds greatest sporting events made
infamous by a spectacular massacre of athletes from the wrong country.
As though
this were not enough, many of the old common market countries had their own
problems with indigenous violent subversionthe Red Army Faction in Germany,
the CCC in Belgium, the Red Brigades in Italy and the Corsican Liberation Front
in Franceandwithnewmemberscame alsonewproblemsthe British and Irish
brought the IRA and the Spanish the Basque nationalist group, ETA.
And yet about
this inferno not merely on the doorstep but within the house itself, there came
barely a murmur from the EU (as it was not then called). The occasional speech
by a concerned functionary, some desultory calls for action from the European
Parliament: little more.
The change of personality so evident in the response to 2001 is, as Eckes has
observed, popular with governments that consider the EU in principle better placed
to adopt not only comprehensive embargoes but also targeted sanctions.
Even the
On the Paris attacks, see D. Bigo, E. Brouwer, S. Carrera, E. Guild, E. Guittet, J. Jeandesboz, F. Ragazzi
and A. Scherrer, The EU Counter-terrorism Policy Responses to the Attacks in Paris. Towards an EU and
Security Agenda,CEPS Paper in Liberty and Security in Europe, No 81, February 2015, available at‌iles/LSE81Counterterrorism.pdf.
F. de Londras and J. Do ody (eds), The Impact, Legitimacy, and Effectiveness of EU Counter-terrorism
(Routledge,2015). For the Durham UniversitySECILE project, see DurhamLaw School Research Brief‌ing
No 14, availableat
C. Eckes, EU Restrictive Measures against Natural and Legal Persons: From Counter-terrorist to Third
Country Sanctions, (2014) 51 Common Market Law Review 869906.
C. C. Murphy, EU Counter-terrorism Law Pre-emption and the Rule of Law (Hart Publishing, 2012).
Respectively, the attacks in Rome and Vienna airports in 1985 and Athens airport in 1973; bombed cities
would include London, Paris and Milan, on occasions too many to mention; the Achille Lauro cruise ship
hijack in 1985; and the attack on the Munich Olympics in 1972. For the details, see the full account from
the period of most activity that covers the European situation extensively in P. Wilkinson and A. Stewart
(eds), Contemporary Research on Terrorism (Aberdeen University Press, 1987). A critical perspective on the
idea of international terrorismis offered by R. Jackson, L. Jarvis, J. Gunning and M. Breen Smith,
Terrorism. A Critical Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
See the special issue on Terrorist Movements in Twentieth Century Europe, (2007) 14 (3) European
Review of History. C. A. Gearty, Terror (Faber and Faber, 1991) has short accounts of many of the core
European movements.
S. Peers, EU Responses to Terrorism, (2003) 52 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 227243
brief‌ly covers the slight pre-2001.
Eckes, above, n 8 at 872.
The State of Freedom in EuropeNovember 2015
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 707

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