The 22nd of July 2011, when over 70 people were killed by a single, crazed terrorist, has entered Norwegian history as the worst attack on the nation’s security since World War II. Even though the Norwegian case differs in some aspects from other cases of “traditional” terrorism–thus far it seems as though the attack was made by a single man rather than an organized group–the attacks in the Oslo city centre and on the island of Utøya once again put the topic of terrorism and national security in the news.
What consequences may rise up in the wake of these events? Will the effects of these terrorist attacks be felt throughout Europe? If so, what effects will they have on the EU?
Although Norway is still not a member-nation of the EU, the country maintains a strong level of cooperation with the EU through the use of various agreements and policies. The communication between the two parties is mainly relayed under the EEA (European Economic Area). Through the EEA, Norway is able to cooperate with the EU in questions concerning for example consumer protection. Due to the Mixed Committee institution, which allows full participation in the Schengen for non-EU countries, Norway is also a part of the Schengen agreement.
In issues concerning security and terrorism there are two policy areas where Norway cooperate with the EU, the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) and the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). The ESDP allows the EU to deploy troops for crisis management, peace-keeping and peace-making situations.
The Norwegian relationship with the ESDP is of course linked with Norway’s membership status in NATO. Even though the relationship between NATO and the ESDP has been turbulent at some points, for instance at the beginning of the Iraq war, Norway has remained on both groups’ good sides and has contributed troops to the ESDP for both civilian and military missions.
Norway’s participation in the JHA handles problems and conflicts on a more domestic level, where decisions are made concerning matters including border control, asylum and terrorism. The JHA is also responsible for developing the Prüm-agreement, which allows it to exchange DNA, fingerprint, and vehicle information over borders in order to prohibit and prevent acts of terrorism.
So what happened within these policy areas prior to the 22nd of July, and what changed afterwards? The EU Foreign Affairs Council held a meeting four days before the attacks in Norway and discussed the ESDP and what actions to take in three main areas of conflict; Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, and, following the events of the “Arab Spring”, Syria. Norway had, prior to this meeting, already joined the EU sanctions against Syria by freezing assets, restricting travel and more importantly restricting the export of arms to the country.
In early September, little more than a month after the horrible events in Norway, the EU—with Norwegian support–imposed harder sanctions on Syria. The sanctions now included a ban on the import and transportation of oil and petroleum from Syria.
On the Justice and Home Affairs front, the effects were somewhat more dramatic. Norway itself has signed the Prüm-agreement mentioned above and it is now enforced in an attempt to combat future threats of terrorism. Different terror-fighting branches of the EU–such as Europol, Terrorism Working Party (TWP), and the Commission for Territorial Cohesion (COTER )–have also received information from the Norwegian government concerning the attacks.
Also, a special meeting was put together on the 28th of July in Brussels. The purpose of the meeting was, apart from giving members of the EU states an opportunity to offer their condolences to the Norwegian government, to coordinate the efforts of TWP and COTER under the EU counter-terrorism coordinator, and for representatives from the Norwegian authority to share information on the ongoing investigations in the case.
The attacks in Norway undoubtedly caused a number of reactions throughout Europe. On the international front these effects were perhaps not seen so much; the sanctions imposed on Syria were hardly connected to the terror attacks and would probably have occurred anyway. The larger consequences can be seen more clearly on a domestic level.
Not only are the terror-fighting branches of the EU on as high an alert as they were following the terror-attacks in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005 respectively, but also a greater focus is now put on the so called “Lone-Wolf” terrorism, where a single lunatic with no connection to any terrorist group performs the terrible deeds in question. Whereas the main attention in the terror fighting branches of the EU has been directed towards mainly Islamic terror-groups such as the al-Qaeda, resources are now being spent to research the rise of lone, right-wing extremism which is on a rise in Europe.
A greater stress has also been put on the importance of exchanging information between different European nations. However, considering these changes in the approach to terrorism, it is remarkable that no new policy on fighting terrorism has been made. The existing one was written in 2005, following the previously mentioned attacks in London and Madrid. But perhaps we will see a change come about soon.