UK PM Theresa May proposes Brexit transition in Florence speech

 

Prime Minister Theresa May chose a hall in Florence to read her speech on the UK’s exit from the EU. She proposed a creative and deep relationship for the future with a two-year implementation period after March 2019.

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May proposes two-year transition period after Brexit

Speaking in front of a grey and white map of the world with the motto “Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future” British Prime Minister Theresa May read her 5,000-word Cabinet-approved speech in a building, reported to be a disused police barracks, next door to the ancient Santa Maria Novella church in Florence, Italy on Friday.

Never at home in Europe?

May suggested Britain had for geographical reasons never felt completely part of Europe and the vote to leave taken narrowly in the referendum in June 2016 was in part to regain “domestic democratic control” from the EU.

The prime minister suggested there was a profound responsibility to make the decision work and be “imaginative and creative” in making a new relationship between the UK and the EU.

May referred to the 14 papers published by the UK on Brexit and three rounds of sometimes “tough” negotiations with “concrete progress” being made on issues such as Northern Ireland and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe.

Addressing EU citizens in Britain she said: “We want you to stay, we value you and we thank you for your contribution to national life,” and added that she wanted them to be able to continue living their lives in the same way.

“Life for us will be different,” May said but added that she hoped the EU and UK would stay as partners, “rather than as part of the EU” with a new economic relationship and a new relationship on security.

Responding afterwards to the speech, EU negotiator Michel Barnier commented on May’s “constructive spirit,” and that the sooner an orderly exit could be agreed, the sooner the EU could discuss a future relationship. He said that May’s comments on citizens’ rights were a step forward but that they had to be translated into a precise negotiating position.

UK nationals in Florence held banners ahead of May's speech as she confirmed no deal is still better than a bad deal on BrexitUK nationals in Florence held banners ahead of May’s speech as she confirmed “no deal is still better than a bad deal” on Brexit

Completely different economic partnership

Theresa May confirmed the UK would no longer be part of the single market or customs union. She ruled out both a deal on the lines of the European Economic Area (EEA), seeing a “loss of democratic control” or a European-Canadian free trade agreement which while “advanced” would represent a restriction that “would benefit neither of our economies” and could take years to negotiate.

Instead, May said “let us be creative” and find a new economic relationship with a new set of rules to set out how each side behaved in context of shared values. Asked by a UK journalist, May confirmed it would be a “completely different” relationship to anything that currently exists.

She called for a strong disputes resolution mechanism interpreted in the same way in the UK and EU but “it would not be right for one of the party’s courts to have jurisdiction over the other.”

Security

“We believe we should be as open-minded as possible on how we work together on security matters,” May said. “We share the same values in peace, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

She also called for new “dynamic arrangements” to tackle new security challenges in the future with a treaty between the EU and the UK. May also proposed a joint approach to world issues – on diplomacy and development.

The prime minister said the UK was unconditionally committed to maintaining European security and tackling “shared threats.”

May’s speech was delivered to an assembly of international journalists, the Mayor of Florence and Italy’s minister for EU affairs, Sandro Gozi. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni had met with EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Rome on Thursday. In terms of international protocol, May’s appearance was unusual in that she was not in Florence on the invitation of an Italian leader or as part of an international forum as she made her third major speech on Brexit. The mayor of Florence, who was invited, published his welcome on Twitter:

 

Transitional period

May confirmed Britain was leaving the EU in March 2019 with a “strictly, time-limited period” for implementing the new processes for the new partnership after that date to cover issues such as immigration, which would be in both the UK and the EU’s interests.

However, she suggested some elements of the new partnership could be brought forward.

She proposed what she called a “clear double lock:” a guarantee for people and businesses to have time to prepare, and certainty that the transitional period would not go on forever.

She expressed understanding for the financial effects of Britain’s departure for the EU’s budget but confirmed that Britain would fulfill its responsibilities from the period of its membership and “cover our fair share” of the costs involved in the transition period and the UK’s departure.

May's speech was given in a building near the Santa Maria Novella church in FlorenceMay’s speech was given in a building near the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence

A future of the UK outside the EU

In closing, May outlined her vision for Britain’s future as a confident trading, economic state and a partnership: delivering prosperity.

She said the tone she wanted to set was one of trust and a spirit of partnership in which issues could be resolved quickly.

The next round of EU-UK talks on Brexit begins on Monday. In previous negotiations, the EU has focused on Northern Ireland and its border with EU-member the Republic of Ireland, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the payment from the UK to settle its obligations from its period of membership – before any new relationship can be discussed. Little progress appears to have been made to date.

Commenting later, the chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber said May had brought no more clarity to London’s position on Brexit. “I am even more concerned now,” he wrote. He also said EU citizens in the UK needed legal certainty, as he reminded the UK parliament that time for an agrement was running out fast:

Infografik Brexit Timeline Englisch

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Opinion: The world needs more Europe and less Donald Trump

Donald Trump jeopardizes world peace. He is aggravating North Korea and Iran and simultaneously widening the gulf between the US and Europe. But he could learn a thing or two from the Europeans, writes DW’s Max Hofmann.

Donald Trump frowns at the UN General Assembly (Getty Images/AFP/B. Smialowski)

Can someone please find a distraction for the American president? Dangle a shiny object in front of him? Maybe show him a funny YouTube video, or get him to give a rally speech in some small American town. Do anything to keep him busy in the US because when it comes to foreign policy and dealing with countries like North Korea or Iran, Donald Trump horrifies his partners, especially those in Europe.

After years of laying down the groundwork, the negotiating partners struggled for yet another 20 months over the Iran nuclear deal. The European Union had a seat at the negotiation table and ended up scoring a success for the bloc. Ultimately, Europeans were able to use their favorite crisis-resolution skill: classic diplomacy.

Trump speaking before the UN General Assembly (Reuters/E. Munoz)Trump reiterated his threat to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear accord during a speech at the UN

Ever since the Iran nuclear deal was concluded, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has checked eight times to see whether Iran has met the requirements. Every time, the answer was “Yes!” The results have been so convincing that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed to use the agreement as a blueprint for further action in North Korea.

A confrontational course for Europe and the US?

Now along comes Donald Trump, who threatens to destroy the greatest international diplomatic feat of recent years. For what? Merely to fulfil a crazy election promise. He mentions North Korea and Iran in the same breath and makes it sound as though both nations must be treated with equal severity. Europeans would never lump these two countries together. Those in Europe know the devastating effects the termination of the Iran deal would have at their own doorstep: the destabilization of the Middle East, Iran’s move towards China and Russia, and the strengthening of radical anti-Western forces.

What can the European Union do? It will probably — as already announced by the EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini – adhere to the agreement, regardless of whether the US pulls out or not. In practice, this could mean that Americans would impose sanctions on Iran again while the Europeans would not, putting the transatlantic entities on a confrontational course with each other. Everyone knows how the US president will react to this. At the same time, the West would lose all credibility as a moral and political entity and would be permanently weakened. If the US and the EU can no longer act together, no one will take them seriously.

DW's Brussels studio head Max Hofmann

The EU has no choice but to continue using whatever influence it still wields over Trump’s government. The Europeans must try to keep the US in the agreement. Its success in the past few years should speak for itself, but facts no longer count in the White House. Merkel and company have tried prievously to make Trump come to his senses, as was seen with the Paris climate agreement, but to no avail. In the case of Iran, however, it is a matter of a new cold war — or even a hot war in a highly volatile region. The situation could escalate very quickly.

Read more: Iran nuclear deal: Trump rebuke could ‘push Tehran towards nukes’

Diplomacy — difficult but successful

The prospect for North Korea is even gloomier than for Iran. Europeans have very little influence there. The EU cannot — and does not want to — keep up with Donald Trump’s and Kim Jong Un’s nuclear swagger. The bloc’s demand to focus strictly on politics and diplomacy may seem like it’s failing to handle the situation with the seriousness it deserves. However, it is the right way to move ahead and the only way forward for the EU. Here, too, one can see the gapping gulf between Europe and the US in sensitive diplomatic issues.

Donald Trump und Kim Jong Un TV Bild in Seoul (picture alliance/AP Photo/A. Young-joon)The threats of destruction Trump (L) and Kim Jong Un (R) are trading could have disastrous consequences

But Donald Trump will have to follow the European example, at least a little bit, if he really wants to maintain world peace, as he declared to the UN General Assembly. His threats, both to Iran and North Korea, have the potential to lead the world to destruction. Europe’s diplomatic approach may at times seem somewhat feeble, but it is the only method that has really worked in recent years. The Americans have tried to use military force in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes with disastrous results. That is why Trump’s saber rattling and his demand to renegotiate the Iran deal strike Europeans as threatening and hollow. Everyone believes that the president is capable of a blind military attack. The angry man in the White House lacks the experts, the patience, and the competence required to conduct well-balanced and complex negotiations. Europe has all this.

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Angela Merkel offers to liaise in North Korea crisis

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Catalonia independence bid – what you need to know

Catalonia is set to go to the polls on October 1 to vote in a referendum on indepedence from Spain. But do Catalans really want independence and are they ready? DW has the lowdown.

Supporters wave their flags and banners during the initial act of the 'Si' (yes) campaign in run-up to planned secession referendum

Catalonia’s separatist regional government plans to hold a controversial referendum on independence from Spain on October 1.

If the referendum passes, the administration said it would declare independence within 48 hours.

In recent days, Catalan nationalist protests have erupted in the region’s capital Barcelona and other towns over a government crackdown on the vote.

Map showing Catalonia

What led to the independence drive?

Catalonia has been a part of Spain since the 15th century. Catalan nationalists have pressed for greater autonomy for decades, but calls for independence have risen since 2010.

Catalan nationalists argue that they are a nation with a distinct language, culture and history separate from Spain. Independence, they say, will protect the Catalan nation from the encroachment of Spanish language and culture.

Former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco suppressed Catalan autonomy and identity during his 1938-75 rule. But the democratic constitution that emerged from dictatorship granted Catalonia autonomy in 1979.

Nationalist sentiment was sparked after Spanish Supreme Court in 2010 overturned parts of a new 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which had been agreed to by the Catalan parliament and Spanish government with the support of a referendum.

Among the 14 articles in the Statute of Autonomy stuck down by the Supreme Court were those that gave preference to the Catalan language and empowered the region’s control over finances. Its ruling that there was no legal basis to describe the Catalan people as a “nation” enraged nationalists.

Massive Catalan nationalist protests ensued, leading to a non-binding referendum in 2014 despite Madrid calling it illegal. The referendum passed with 80 percent voting in favor, but turnout was less that 40 percent.

The referendum galvanized nationalists, who took control of parliament in 2015 following elections vowing to hold an official independence referendum.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont called for an independence referendum in June. The Catalan parliament in September then voted to authorize the vote on October 1.

Timeline of Catalonia

How did the Spanish government react?

The government in Madrid and Supreme Court have declared the referendum illegal.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to prevent the vote, including through force. Action taken so far includes:

– Police raiding Catalan government offices, arresting officials and confiscating 10 million ballot papersand other voting materials.

– More than two-thirds of the region’s nearly 900 mayors who plan to facilitate the vote being called in for questioning and facing arrest if they move forward with the referendum.

The crackdown has raised questions over whether Catalonia – one of Spain’s wealthiest regions – will be able to organize a credible vote. At the same time, some analysts worry that Madrid’s hardhanded tactics to stop the referendum could boost support for independence.

Watch video01:41

Catalan officials detained: Protests erupt in Barcelona

Do Catalans support independence?

Catalonia’s roughly 5.5 million voters will be asked a “Yes” or “No” question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”

– A poll conducted by the Catalan government in June found that 41.1 percent of respondents were in favor of independence, while 49.4 percent were against.

– However, of the 67.5 percent of voters who said they would participate in the referendum, 62.4 percent said they would vote “Yes” and 37.6 percent responded “No.”

– The same poll showed that 62 percent of respondents think Catalonia has an “insufficient level of autonomy” compared to 26.4 percent who said there is a “sufficient level of autonomy.”

– Furthermore, 48 percent said they want to hold a referendum, regardless of central government permission, while 23.4 percent were in favor of a vote only if Madrid agreed.

Therefore, the results of the October 1 referendum, just like the one held in 2014, may hinge on voter turnout.

A member of the Catalonia parliament gives a thumbs up in a September 6 vote to pursue an independece referendum. A member of the Catalonia parliament gives a thumbs up in a September 6 vote to pursue an independece referendum

What powers does the Catalonia government have now?

Catalonia, an economic powerhouse that makes up one-fifth of Spain’s GDP, complains that it sends 10 billion ($12 billion) more to Madrid than it receives back. The 2010 Supreme Court decision restricting the region’s control over finances fueled resentment at a time the country was struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Opponents of the financial argument point out that it is only fair that Catalonia helps support less developed regions, considering that the Constitution grants “self-government of the nationalities and regions and solidarity among them all.

– Catalonia is politically organized under the Generalitat de Catalunya, with a parliament, president and executive council.

– The region is granted considerable autonomy over culture, education, health, parts of the justice system and local government.

– It has its own police force, Mossos d’Esquadra, although Spanish police also have a presence in the region.

– The government is also able to collect taxes on wealth, inheritance, gambling and transport. The central government collects income tax, corporate taxes and value-added taxes.

Watch video00:34

Catalan parliament separatists sing

Impact of the vote

Whether the independence referendum passes or fails, it is likely to set off a legal battle and power struggle between Madrid and Catalonia.

A “Yes” vote threatens to hit Spanish bonds and endanger economic recovery from a multi-year recession, with GDP growth of around 3 percent in 2015 and 2016.

Analysts say Catalonia would struggle to be financial viable and fail on its debt obligations.

The Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) has called for the laws of Spain and the EU to be followed. In a statement, it voiced “deep concern” over the impact the illegal referendum would have on “business and investor confidence in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain.”

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Donald Trump and the Iran nuclear deal – a crisis in the making

As the world grapples with a nuclear-armed North Korea, the Trump administration is working to terminate the Iran nuclear deal. The catch is, it works and prevents a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

The roadmap for Iran is exchanged

US President Donald Trump has exactly one month, namely until October 15, to confirm to Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. He has to do so every 90 days, as stipulated by the so-called Corker-Cardin law. It was passed by a largely Iran-critical Congress in 2015 to ensure lawmakers had a permanent say in US dealings with Iran. If the president fails to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear agreement, Congress has 60 days to reinstitute sanctions against the country. This would equate to the US de facto leaving the nuclear treaty, which could possibly spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Thus far, Trump has certified twice that Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal, albeit reluctantly. Now, growing evidence suggests he does not intend to recertify the deal in mid-October. Not only did he tell the Wall Street Journal on July 25 that he would be “surprised if they were in compliance.” Trump also added that he would, if necessary, ignore his aides’ recommendations and even those expressed by the State Department. Trump has meanwhile tasked his own White House working group with producing arguments that Iran is not complying with deal.

Watch video02:05

In 2016 US and EU lifted sanctions on Iran (17.01.2016)

Opposition to nuclear deal

That the Trump administration is intent on canceling the Iran nuclear deal also became evident recently at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank, which played an important role in drumming up support in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. On September 5, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, held a speech at the AEI on Iran and the nuclear deal, dismissing the nuclear treaty and Iran as an untrustworthy partner. Haley erroneously claimed that “Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half.”

Indeed, Iran did slightly exceed the agreed limits for heavy water, twice. Heavy water is used to moderate certain types of nuclear reactors. After talks with its treaty partners, Iran agreed to immediately export excess heavy water. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is tasked with monitoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has consequently certified again and again that Iran is adhering to the conditions of the nuclear deal. The IAEA last did so on August 31, just five days prior to Haley’s speech. Haley herself had visited the IAEA in Vienna in late August, insisting on tougher inspections that include military facilities.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's nuclear authority, visits a nuclear power academyAli Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear authority, visits a nuclear power academy

Most closely monitored non-nuclear state

The JCPOA does not, however, allow for inspections “everywhere and at all times,” as Haley demands. The IAEA may inspect previously agreed sites and can undertake inspections “where and when” evidence points to a treaty breach. So far, Iran has rejected not a single inspection request. In a study published in July, the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) thus declared Iran the world’s “most closely monitored non-nuclear state.” And IAEA director Yukiya Amano recently attested that “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime. Our inspectors are on the ground 24/7. We monitor nuclear facilities, using permanently installed cameras and other equipment.”

Haley’s talk at the AEI deliberately mixed up JCPOA stipulations with Iranian rocket tests, regional conflicts and human rights issues. Yet the Iran nuclear deal was never intended to pertain to anything other than Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It was solely designed to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear arms program, which it has succeeded in doing. Furthermore, the deal could allow Iran to return to the international community. This has only been a partial success. And so Iran has been able to improve its strategic position markedly in the previous two years, to the frustration of the US and some of its allies.

But a paper published on September 6 by the Soufan Group, a private strategic security intelligence consultant, draws a surprising conclusion: Easing JCPOA sanctions is not to blame. Instead, Iran’s regional clout can be mainly explained by the strategic mistakes of its enemies. Chiefly, Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and its conflict with Qatar.

Watch video00:36

Trump: Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon

Misinterpreted German intelligence

This does not hinder Iran’s enemies from also utilizing reports by Germany’s domestic intelligence service to attack the nuclear deal. In early July, the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) referred to Hamburg’s domestic intelligence service to claim that Iran was planning to purchase nuclear material in Germany. The claim was soon cited in other US media. These Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear material, however, dated back to 2009 – long before the nuclear deal was agreed.

German authorities had tried to clarify the timing of these Iranian plans, according to Mark Fitzpatrick. The director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) urged the German authorities to “further clarify this context.” Fitzpatrick is optimistic that the JCPOA will endure, despite the Trump administration’s stance and a largely critical Congress. That, he told DW, is because Iran has declared it will honor the nuclear agreement even if the US leaves, provided the other treaty partners – the European Union, Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – don’t abandon the treaty. This affords the EU a significant role, says Fitzpatrick.

Europeans have reiterated their support for the Iranian nuclear deal. One day after Haley’s talk, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le-Drian expressed concern that the Trump administration was putting the nuclear deal in question. And EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has stressed that “the nuclear deal doesn’t belong to one country; it belongs to the international community.”

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France’s Emmanuel Macron outlines vision for Franco-German alliance

French President Macron has said boosting cooperation with Germany was crucial to regaining the trust of European voters. His comments came ahead of his first EU leaders summit in Brussels.

Frankreich Wahlen Macron (picture alliance/AP Photo/T.Camus)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called on Germany to work alongside France in fostering a fresh approach to European politics and winning back the trust of people feeling disenfranchised by the EU.

Speaking to a number of European newspapers ahead of his first EU leader summit in Brussels on Thursday, Macron said the greatest threat facing the bloc was the propensity for lawmakers and voters to veer away from liberal policies.

Read more: Opinion: Europe, En Marche!

“The question now is: will Europe succeed in defending the deep values it brought to the world for decades, or will it be wiped out by the rise in illiberal democracies and authoritarian regimes,” he said.

Watch video01:17

Let The Reform Begin

The French president called on Germany and France to drive the necessary reforms needed to reconcile citizens with the European project. Macron’s policy roadmap would see the EU promote “greater economic and social wellbeing” and introduce tighter rules on workers and make it harder for companies to employ low-wage labor from eastern Europe.

“One country’s strength cannot feed on the weakness of others,” Macron told reporters. The French president insisted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in total agreement and realized the need for deeper cooperation. “Germany, which underwent a series of reforms around 15 years ago, is realizing that this isn’t viable,” he said.

Doubts remain over new eurozone ministry

One area where Macron’s vision has drawn skepticism in Berlin concerns the euro currency. The French president has called for a common eurozone budget and a democratically controlled “Euro Ministry.”

Reports last month suggested that the proposal had been rejected in Berlin by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Read more: Macron’s EU ideals meet Merkel’s mastery

However, Macron insisted on Thursday that it was the “only means of achieving more convergence within the eurozone,” and that “Germany does not it deny it.”

On Tuesday, Merkel signaled that she would be open to the idea of a eurozone budget.

“We could, of course, consider a common finance minister, if the conditions are right,” the chancellor said in a speech at the annual congress held by Germany’s largest industrial lobby, the Federation of German Industries. However, Merkel ruled out any European body taking responsibility for member states’ risks and liabilities for debt.

Watch video25:59

Victory for Macron – Challenge for Europe?

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EU agrees to joint sanctions on cyberattacks

The EU has agreed to use a “cyber diplomacy toolbox” against hackers targeting member states. The move comes amid concern hackers may seek to influence German elections in September.

Symbolbild Cyberangriff (picture-alliance/dpa/MAXPPP/A. Marchi)

The European Union agreed Monday that a cyberattack on any member state would be met by a joint response, including sanctions on state and non-state hackers.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement that the bloc would use a “cyber diplomacy toolbox” to respond to malicious cyberactivities targeting computer systems.

“A joint EU response to malicious cyberactivities would be proportionate to the scope, scale, duration, intensity, complexity, sophistication and impact of the cyberactivity,” foreign ministers said in a statement.

So-called restrictive measures typically target individuals, groups, companies or governments with travel bans, asset freezes and restrictions on doing business.

Read more: Vladimir Putin’s ‘freelance artist’ hackers

Election worries

With German elections coming up in September, there is rising concern within the EU that individuals or groups could carry out malicious cyberattacks to influence the elections, possibly backed by a foreign government such as Russia.

The German government last month warned political parties to take extra defense against the hacking of their computer systems after alleged Russian-backed cyberattacks to influence the US and French elections through the release of hacked emails.

Suspected Russian-backed hackers broke into the email accounts of German lawmakers in 2015, and subsequently targeted political parties including Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, said in early May that “large amounts of data” had been seized in the cyberattacks.

“Our counterpart is trying to generate information that can be used for disinformation or for influence operations,” he told a conference in Potsdam, near Berlin. “Whether they do it or not is a political decision … that I assume will be made in the Kremlin.”

Watch video02:23

Election security in the digital age

cw/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Jihadi arrests in EU nearly double in 2 years: Europol

The number of people arrested in Europe on suspicion of jihadi activities has almost doubled in the last two years. Overall, there were 142 “failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks” in 2016.

French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower (Getty Images/AFP/B. Guay)

Europol, Europe’s top law-enforcement organization, said in its annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report that 718 suspects were arrested on offenses relating to jihadi terror in 2016, up from 395 in 2014.

The number of attacks dropped from 17 in 2014 to 13 last year, six of which were linked to the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group.

Armed police officers outside a rugby match at Twickenham in London. Lauren Hurley/PA Wire Security has been stepped up in the UK following recent attacks

The report noted that women and children, as well as young adults, were playing an increasingly important operational role.

One in four of those arrested in Britain in 2016 were women, an 18 percent increase from 2015, Europol said.

“Female militant jihadists in the West perceive fewer obstacles to playing an operative role in a terrorist attack than men, and successful or prevented attacks carried out by women in Western countries may act as an inspiration to others,” the report said.

In total 1,002 arrests were made in 2016 relating to terror activities. France had the highest number of arrest at 456, with almost a third of those detained 25 years or younger, Europol said.

There were 142 “failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks” including those by jihadis, more than half of them in the UK.

Syria, Iraq as inspiration

Explosives mimicking those used in Syria and Iraq have become a leading threat to the EU, along with returning fighters, the report said.

The report noted that governments are paying close attention to the use of drone explosives by jihadi groups in Iraq, as homegrown extremists seek to replicate the weapons used there.

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Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Manchester and now another attack in London? European cities have been increasingly targeted by Islamist extremists in recent years. (04.06.2017)

The bomber who struck at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last month, for example, used a backpack bomb packed with bearings and other small pieces of metal, similar to bombs used in attacks by al-Qaida and IS extremists.

The suicide bombing in  Manchester on May 22 killed 22 people. Two weeks later, a knife and van attack in central London left eight dead.

“The kind of attacks that ISIS have used in the conflict zone, including car bombs perhaps and others, if that technical capability is known within the organization then clearly there’s potential for that to be transferred into a European scenario,” Europol chief Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press, using an alternative acronym for IS.

“Although one shouldn’t underestimate, either, the difficulty in doing that on a consistent basis.”

Many Europeans have left IS after growing disenchanted with life under war, if not the brutality of the extremists themselves, Wainwright said.

The concern is how to distinguish them from others who are returning clandestinely to form new networks, he added.

“It’s a reflection of the very serious threat that we face in Europe and a reflection of the fact that I’m afraid we can’t get that threat down to zero,” Wainwright said.

Need for international cooperation

The report noted the need for closer cooperation in intelligence sharing among member states.

“Terrorists do not respect or recognize borders,” the EU’s safety chief Julian King said in the report. “In our resolve to defeat them we must draw on a newfound determination to work together, sharing information and expertise.”

Not all attacks were jihadi-inspired, with the majority of other attacks carried out by “ethno-nationalist” and separatists extremists. For example, dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland were involved in 76 attacks, the report said. This lead to 123 arrests.

Watch video00:45

London attack suspect appeared in jihad doc

jbh/cmk (AFP, AP)

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