Intense security measures of European countries believed to limit citizens' freedoms

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
ANKARA
Published 27.11.2015 22:54

Following the recent deadly terror attacks in Paris, EU security measures have intensified to a degree that has left many worried about interference with citizens' privacy and freedom. However, the major alterations to security measures taken both in France and Belgium have been welcomed by most citizens. Turkey was harshly criticized by the EU when the government introduced a domestic security reform package to combat terrorism. The European Parliament's (EP) Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri stated that "the bill paves the way for police violence," while EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said although increasing the security of citizens is a legitimate purpose, the measures enforced "must be accomplished in strict adherence to universal fundamental rights and freedoms and European standards." The criticisms against Turkey's security measures were also made by Parliament members despite EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır underlining that the bill is in line with EU norms and practices. When comparing the security measures taken by the government, to France and Belgium, it is evident that major funds and arms have been provided to the French and Belgium officers.

Belgium continues to apply a state of emergency that has also been imposed in France. Both France and Belgium have urged their European partners during the EU interior and justice ministers meeting to toughen gun laws and border security while restoring calmness to those countries in a panic due to the deadly terror attacks. The Belgian government has doubled its counterterrorism budget and will now spend 400 million euros. During the three-day terror alarm in Belgium, the country's subway services, schools, universities, movie theaters, museums and all concerts have been shut down and cancelled. With such intense security measures, citizens have locked themselves in their homes where some even left to the suburbs due to fear. The Belgian government has increased its detention time from 24 hours to 72 hours in the name of security, whereas in Turkey under its security reform package this is 24 hours but can increase up to 48 hours depending on the case.

The most controversial security measure is imposing surveillance on community mosques, where security officials are authorized to shut down the mosque if hate speech is encouraged. However, such security measures can very well be manipulated and further increase tensions among the Muslim citizens of Belgium. In addition, both Belgian and French citizens can be stripped off of their citizenship if they are believed to have a connection with terrorists. The new security funds will also be applied to acquiring new technology and improving communication systems. The government has also extended investigative methods through increased wiretapping and raiding private homes. Previously the Belgian government did not allow raids between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., however with the new measures the raids can be done at any time of the day. While increasing its border security, Belgium has also assigned 520 military officials for domestic security, in addition to police officers.

Responding to the measures taken by some EU countries on Daily News Hungary, security policy expert Gyorgy Nogradi criticized European leaders and said "they have been unable to act in a difficult situation." Nogradi further said that European intelligence agencies project themselves as flawless, but in reality are far from it. In an effort to fight terrorism, French and Belgian officials urged European leaders to step up information sharing and apply systematic checks in the Schengen area. Similar to Belgium, France has also intensified measures and assigned 10,000 troops to sensitive sites, with current security officers and soldiers listed as reinforcements. The French government, which continues its state of emergency, also is now tracking the movement of its citizens throughout the EU under the new security measures. The local police forces are supplied with weapons and bullet-proof jackets.

As a result of the Oct. 6-7 Kobani protests, the Turkish government passed a domestic security reform bill on March 27 that was prepared in line with EU standards of security, freedoms and security regulations. The reform package indicates restructuring the police force, tougher penalties for disrupting public order, safety and the labeling of Molotov cocktails as weapons. Additionally, the curfews applied by the government in eastern and southeastern Turkey due to the deadly terror attacks by the PKK terrorist organization have been criticized by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and its supporters. When comparing Turkey's security measures to Europe's, it is evident that the citizens of the EU are more willing to cooperate in fighting terrorism, despite the fact that it limits their freedom and interferes with their privacy.

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