At least 30 people are dead following a suicide attack at Zaventem airport and at a metro station in Brussels. Some experts are inclined to see the Tuesday morning blasts as Islamist terrorists’retaliation for the arrest a few days ago of Salah Abdeslam, one of the masterminds of last year’s terror strikes in Paris. The terrorists have managed to disrupt totally a city that is headquarters and home to a vast European Union bureaucracy. Though anticipating accurately as and when a terror group would show its hand is a hazardous call, nonetheless the Brussels security establishment has once again been found to be underequipped to track down and neutralize terror networks that were linked to last year’s Paris outrage.
The Tuesday carnage has, rightly, been condemned as a cowardly act. There is never a justification for any terror act. It must have come as a rude shock to the European political class that has refused to take note of its vast restive ethnic communities, emotionally locked into conflict zones of the troubled Middle-East. Globalization of grievances, resentments, weapons and terror skills has created enclaves of potentially troublesome immigrants in every European country. After Paris and now Brussels, Europe will face a difficult test. For decades European diplomats and leaders have lectured the rest of the world on how ethnic minorities must be treated; now the same very European elites find themselves befuddled and bedeviled as they deal with Islamist groups. The security establishments throughout Europe will renew their case for partly dismantling the openness that defines the European Union. The terror-induced trauma would take its toll of European sense of equilibrium.
Unhappily, right-wing sentiments and prejudices have already captured large slices of European imagination. Political parties and leaders who pander to xenophobia and aggressive nationalism have gained significant electoral space. These gains in Europe have emboldened the likes of Donald Trumps in America. Advocacy of muscular right-wing solutions, in turn, strengthens the hand of the extremist. Democratic voices in Europe must not lose their confidence and certitude.