europol

Europol’s TE-SAT: Disappointing Analysis On Terrorism

In the 21st century decision makers are confronted with an increasingly complex environment and subsequently the demands on institutions such as Europol have grown exponentially: the body must keep up.

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[dropcap]E[/dropcap]uropol publishes an annual report (TE-SAT: EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report) on terrorism activity in Europe which has shown that since 2007 there has been a continued decline of terrorist activity in the continent. The 2012 report however suffers from flaws: Firstly, the definition of the Andreas Breivik attack as explicitly not right wing and secondly, the questionable outlook and trends that it provides. This piece will briefly look at both of these aspects in turn.

Breivik

The report fails to identify the Breivik attack for what it was: a right wing attack. Separating it from other incidents, such as recent right wing attacks in Germany, creates the illusion of continued low levels of right wing violence in line with historical attitudes of governments in Europe that have tended to underestimate this issue. The report is also inconsistent: In its key judgments the report states that right wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated. It is assessed to most likely come from lone actors or underground groups making an implicit link to Breivik. This is, however, surprising because when ignoring Breivik, right wing terrorism is only responsible for a single attack in the EU in 2011. When later discussing the case it is explicitly said that Breivik ‘established his own ideology from various influences and without clear affiliation, presenting himself as a “cultural conservative”’. The formulation here is puzzling as well: “His ideology is assessed as opposing multiculturalism and more specifically Islamism”. It can be assumed that Europol does not believe Islamism to be a form of multiculturalism, but this might be another indication for the somewhat disorientated approach that Europol has taken to this specific case. In addition we can be quite sure that for Breivik a difference between Islam and Islamism does not exist; he opposes Islam per se, making him an enemy of a part of society based on its religious believes. Signifying that he is indeed right-wing.

The contradiction here is obvious; When it comes to the political spectrum: “cultural conservatism” can easily be fitted on the right side of the scale. In addition the use of “conservatism” in this context is a stark euphemism. Taking up weapons with the will to smite the perceived “traitor” is clearly outside the realm of classical “conservatism”.

Even worse: the notion that Breivik has constructed his ideology without connection to a wider ideological movement ignores the obvious facts to the contrary. His manifesto is a copy & paste work. It is not an original piece of work, but incooperates the work of Islamophobes “cultural conservatists” from all over Europe. Europol ignores recent developments on the right side of the political spectrum and the fact that Breivik is embedded in a much larger movement.

Trends and outlook

The trends and outlooks that conclude the report concentrate almost exclusively on Jihadist oriented threats despite that fact that Europe has seen only one such attack in 2011 (the shooting of two US airmen in Frankfurt, Germany). Other than that the report registers 110 separatist motivated plots that either failed, were foiled or were completed, and 37 leftwing oriented. Even when it comes to arrests separatist terrorism still beats religious oriented. A possible bias is also showing itself when discussing the Olympics. Despite fears by experts that Irish republican dissident groups might use the event for attacks, the only variant discussed is al-Qaida inspired terrorism.

To improve future reports in this regard is crucial especially when Europol states that: “The TE-SAT aims to provide law enforcement officials, policymakers and the general public with facts and figures regarding terrorism in the EU, while also seeking to identify trends in the development of this phenomenon”. If this report is supposed to inform decision makers than it will have to improve its assessments. In the 21st century decision makers are confronted with an increasingly complex environment and subsequently the demands on institutions such as Europol have grown exponentially: the body must keep up.

5 thoughts on “Europol’s TE-SAT: Disappointing Analysis On Terrorism”

  1. Totally disappointing article, TE-SAT is not only neutral but an accurate one, and this article is more like an Islamo-appeasement one. Jihadist threat is of primary concern as the foild plots and international situation is not part of the full structure of TE-SAT. The author wants TE-SAT to include Isamophobes (!) instead of cultural conservatives show his stance. TE-SAT again correctly concluded that Breivik’s attacks is not a right wing attack. It’s a lone wolf attack primarily based on his anger and nationalistic sentiments. There was no right wing or political affiliations even a religious one. When the media screamed of him as a “fundamental christian” (something they avoid when Islamic terrorism is in the scene) without any evidence. Breievik is an atheist and his only interest in Christianity as a cultural identity. Ignoring the threat from Islamic terrorism and homegrown terroirsm is not just wishful thinking it’s blind appeasement. The crocodile will get to you eventually.

  2. Thanks for commenting. I have to confess that I had to reread my own article because it was published several months ago.

    Nowhere did I state that Jihadist terrorism is not a threat. I pointed to the simple fact that there is an inconsistency between the empirical numbers and the length in which the report discusses the issue.

    Regarding my discussion of Breivik: first of all there is an inconsistency within the report that I pointed out:

    “The report is also inconsistent: In its key judgments the report states that right wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated. It is assessed to most likely come from lone actors or underground groups making an implicit link to Breivik. This is, however, surprising because when ignoring Breivik, right wing terrorism is only responsible for a single attack in the EU in 2011. When later discussing the case it is explicitly said that Breivik ‘established his own ideology from various influences and without clear affiliation, presenting himself as a “cultural conservative”’.”

    Regarding the question whether his attack was right-wing: you say yourself “he was motivated by anger and NATIONALISTIC sentiments”. Sounds pretty right-wing to me.

    Regarding political affiliations I stand by what I said: he is the violent fringe of a wider movement. Hence he has a political affiliation. Period.

    I am pretty sure I did not mentioned Christianity in my article, but please show me where. On that matter: the term Islamist (terrorism) is commonly used when Jihadist terrorism is discussed in the press. Mind you that after the attack many analysts believed it to be AQ inspired.

    A last comment on the the overall report. After I published this article I talked to some people who have been involved in the drafting process of similar reports. Based on their experience I believe that the report was the result of many different authors working on the same report with a lack of coordination and maybe time which would explain the inconsistencies.

  3. Thank you for the quick reply Jan, in my personal opinion, Brievik’s nationalistic sentiments doesn’t mean that he is a right wing extremist. There is a tendency to interpret xenophobic and hate crimes as part of the right wing ideology, which is why the media speculated him as right wing – fundamentalist even before they had any hard evidence. Brievik was a lone actor propelled by anger and nationalistic sentiments, if nationalistic sentiments are retained by right wing ideology, then even patriotism also belongs to the right wing (!). Brievik’s manifesto is not just a cut and paste, it includes a wide range of quotes and influence from not just “Islamophobes” but even include Churchill, Jefferson, George Orwell etc. It’s his diary and chronicle, and of course, a manifesto. It’s also true Swiss People’s Party is mentioned and many pointed out it as a right wing connection but it also includes India’s Hindutva ideological influence too. The manifesto actually had some suggestions for right wing militants but he himself never identified as one. Here is the strength of TE-SAT, it identified Brievik as a lone actor not a right wing extremist. When I went through Brievik’s manifesto, I have found that he supports anyone who swim against the currents of political correctness or his view of multiculturalism. When you said, regarding Brievik’s political affiliation, “he is the violent fringe of a wider movement…” is an observation and it is not sufficient to point the next assumption, “… hence he has a political affiliation.”
    When I talked about Christianity in my answer, I was suggesting the popular media circus of instant labelling and most reports follow the same. Labelling Brievik as a right wing extremist is a similar one. Unless the boundaries are clearly delineated, we shouldn’t jump into classifying the subject to a certain category. That was all I was saying by answering your article. I apologize, if it sounds harsh.

  4. So it basically comes down to the question of whether Breivik was right-wing.

    First of all let me ask you to reread the report. You think it is a good report but you fail to note the contradictions in it when it comes to Breivik: “In its key judgments the report states that right wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated. It is assessed to most likely come from lone actors or underground groups making an implicit link to Breivik. This is, however, surprising because when ignoring Breivik, right wing terrorism is only responsible for a single attack in the EU in 2011.” So basically one part of the report links Breivik to right wing terrorism, the other part does not: there is an inconsistency for you.

    It is hard for me to see where I should locate someone with nationalistic sentiments who commits who commits murder in the name of xenophobia if not on the right side of the political spectrum. I agree that you do not have to be right-wing per se to hold nationalistic sentiments and I know quite a bit of left-winger who are patriots. Nationalism as an idea is clearly affiliated with the right side of the spectrum and that does not change if it is based on cultural or ethic arguments.

    Please elaborate on: “When you said, regarding Brievik’s political affiliation, “he is the violent fringe of a wider movement…” is an observation and it is not sufficient to point the next assumption, “… hence he has a political affiliation.”” Why is it insufficient?

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