The Foreign Affairs Council activated article 42.7 TEU for the first time in history, last Tuesday. The article was invoked by President François Holland in the aftermath of the 13 November terrorism attacks in Paris. As a result, the EU Member States accepted to offer assistance and support in the theatres where France has operations in place. This statement does not imply the beginning of a new CSDP mission, but rather a bilateral support to France from individual Member States.
Article 42.7 states that ‘If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power’: this definition is flexible enough to be applied to asymmetric threats posed by international terrorism. However, another article in the primary law of the EU –article 222 TFEU – establishes the ‘solidarity clause’, stating that when a Member State is object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster, it should benefit from the joint support of other Member States.
There are two reasons why President Holland opted for article 42.7 over article 222: first of all, the latter establishes that the Union shall mobilise instruments made available by the Member States to “prevent the terrorist threat in the territory of the Member States […]; assist a Member State in its territory […] in the event of a terrorist attack.” Secondly, the mobilisation has to be governed by a Council decision after a proposal from the Commission and the High Representative. Hollande’s harsh answer –he stated that ‘France will be merciless’ and that ‘the republic will destroy terrorism’- would feel quite squeezed into the provisions of article 222, given the geographically limited scope and the legislative procedure foreseen in it
A reflection of inclusion policy errors
Hollande’s choice can be read as a reflection of how the French –and to a certain extent European- attitude towards jihadi terrorism continues to focus solely on the external dimension of terrorism. But when you look at the recent attacks in Paris, terrorists like the Kouachi brothers, Amedy Coulibaly, Abdelhamid Abaaoud are all European citizens, born and raised in France, or Belgium. Kenan Malik recently said in an article on The Guardian that both the British multiculturalism and the French ‘assimilationism’ failed in their attempt to integrate immigrants of second and third generation in their respective societies. When discontent and rage of Northern-African immigrants’ sons and daughters unleashed in the French streets, the initial praise of French politicians for diversity was overshadowed by a more generalised categorisation of Northern-African immigrants into the single big box of “Muslims”, inclusive also of the most secularised individuals who never became full part of the social fabric. The French politics were not able to avoid and detour this marginalising trends, feeding feelings of frustration and lack of belonging which eventually push the most marginalised individuals to seek a new sense of identity and some to blame for their condition. Unfortunately, in some cases these references were found in ISIS – the virtually ever-expanding caliphate- and the Rule of Law –blamed of not being able to provide a shared identity and place in the society.
Reactions to terrorism
In this perspective, invoking article 42.7 is symptomatic of the fact that France and Europe will not provide a new, creative solution capable of erasing jihadi radicalism by cutting its roots of social alienation. Instead, they prefer to adopt a solution founded partly on the wave of emotion and –perhaps- partly on the Hollande’s need to gain votes against a rising far-right in view of the 2017 elections; a solution that Is rapid, but lacking foreseeable tangible results; fragmented instead of addressing the need of further police cooperation; resistant to understanding the many-sided nature of radicalisation, whose roots lies both in the balance of power of Middle-Eastern countries and in the difficulties of western societies to manage a constructive approach to multiculturalism; a solution looking beyond European borders to solve a problem which is more and more rooted within them.