In the weeks after the terrorist attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels and the arrest of the alleged perpetrator in Marseille, the European Union reacted in a typical way. As the perpetrator was known to the French as radical and a returnee from the jihad in Syria and from the border town Roubaix, questions arose why this information – apparently – had not been shared with neigbouring Belgium. After the attack and arrest politicians and high ranking officials were quick to stress the need for closer cooperation and sharing of information. However, this has been said so often before and almost always after terrorist incidents like the one in Brussels.
This does not give the recent call much credibility. Moreover, it could raise doubts among the general public about the current counterterrorism practice: is it really that bad? Typical reactions for more cooperation and coordination give a too negative picture of the situation. While there surely is room for improvement, a lot has already been achieved which also needs mentioning. Another typical reaction that gives a too negative picture of counterterrorism capacity and expertise is the call for a new knowledge hub. Is there really a need for this? Do we know too little about terrorism? And what would be the added value next to so many other initiatives and ongoing joint research project in the European Union (and partly funded by the European Union)?
Again, a lot has already been achieved in recent years and there is no lack of knowledge. Neither is there a lack of opportunities to share ideas among academics and practitioners. If there is a problem, it is the slow implementation of ideas and policies. Perhaps the same persons that have called for new inititiatives should look at why some of the previous initiatives have not worked optimially and focus on ways how to improve the implementation proces. Moreover, they might also pay attention to what has worked well and even more important, try to explain to the public that whatever we do, we can not guarantee 100 per cent safety against terrorism.