Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Ten Years Later

Adelina Marini, September 11, 2011

The world is different and not only because of the 11th of September 2001. The world is different also because of the Berlin Wall of 1989, but also because of the Crisis from 2008. There is no single historical event that can be analysed by itself. It is always directly related to piles of other factors - some unnoticeable, others more visible. What is most important to do on the occasion of the tenth anniversary from the terrible attacks in New York and Washington is to derive as much lessons as possible from the mistakes we made. And this is especially important today, not only in order to settle scores with our conscience but also to enable us to approach as rightly as possible other politically tectonic events like the Arab Spring for example.

How does the world look like 10 years later?

A decade ago, precisely in the beginning of the new millennium, the world was losing count of the numerous goods that the Internet and the new pieces of technology provided. As Thomas L. Friedman writes - the world was becoming flatter and flatter. Globalisation was in its peak which, however, led to tensions in some concrete parts of the world, especially where rulers were not willing to grant these goods to their fellow citizens. This is why it was easy for some world leaders to succumb to the temptation that the goods are meant for all and this can justify the use of military force.

Ten years later we are droopy with disappointment that the military power that was invested in the fight against international terrorism was drowned in trench warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq and the threat of terror not only had not been diminished but it even became more immediate. And this was painfully recalled by Anders Breivik this summer.

Last but not least, 10 years after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in Manhattan and on the Pentagon in Washington DC, millions of youth, born and raised in dictator-ruled countries asked for freedom, jobs and respect for their rights.

And one more thing that is important for us to mention when describing today's world - the distribution of power globally has shifted to the east and we are already in the transitional stage to a new world order, which not few politicians from the very recent past dreamt of and hoped that they would be able to conduct. Alas, still there is no new world order but for now we are successfully avoiding a world chaos.

What we should learn from 9/11

10 years later Europe still thinks the only successful way to fight terrorism is to promote rule of law, human rights and democratic governance, open intercultural dialogue and provision of economic and educational opportunities. Or at least this is said in the joint statement of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on the occasion of the anniversary. "Ten years on, the people in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi and across the Arab world have sent a strong signal for freedom and democracy. This is the strongest answer to the fatuous hate and blind fanaticism of the 9/11 crimes".

This undoubtedly is one of Europe's most precious qualities - her wholehearted belief in the the fundamental democratic values. Which, however, need time. Time that is not always on our side. Or, as former British PM Tony Blair said in an interview for the BBC, "evolution is preferable to revolution". In the same time, though, still open is the question had the US military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq not been realised, would today's world have been possible?

And actually from this question another one stems - could have the world been better than today's? These are important questions and it is also important to take stock whether the fact that the people in Afghanistan and Iraq can vote freely is worth for them to endure destruction, insecurity and lack of jobs. Not less important is another question which we in Bulgaria ask ourselves 21 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - did we really want this freedom which also means for us to be responsible?

Besides, the concept of multiculturalism was put to a serious test by politicians themselves in the beginning of this year when three of them in Europe acknowledged that this model had failed (Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy), and in the middle of the year - by certain social groups in Britain who refused to subordinate to the public order as such.

The heavy consequences of the crisis, the lack of economic recovery and, last but not least, the still high unemployment, forced President Barack Obama to turn his back to the international problems and focus as much efforts as possible to deal with the problems ate home. The gigantic budget gap and US's huge debt were the main reason why the US announced a gradual withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, where the goals are far from achieved but, alas, there is no money for more.

And Europe, as always, is too preoccupied with its own domestic problems, in the grip of a debt crisis in the eurozone and of the challenges that the movements for freedom and democracy have created at its front doors.

Against this backdrop The German Marshall Fund published on the occasion of the anniversary very eloquent data about the public attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic, as the analysts had included in their poll Turkey as well, which in itself has gone through significant evolution precisely in the past 10 years. These data show that in the European Union and Turkey expectations are still high for a strong American leadership in world affairs. Expectations which, however, America currently is not ready to respond to.

54% of the respondents in 12 EU member states (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Spain, Britain) want the US to show strong leadership in world affairs. From all viewed countries, the strongest support, expectedly, comes from the Americans, where 85% expressed a desire their country to have a leading role. High support for the US is registered in Europe too. 72 per cent of the respondents in the EU perceive positively the US, 83% of the Americans as well but only 30% of the Turks look positively to the US. This result is very telling in the end of the third year of President Barack Obama's presidential term because it shows that the hatred that was growing with worrying speed around the world against the global arrogance of the US, had diminished but obviously among the Turks scepticism remains.

These data only prove the complexity of the situation in which the world now is 10 years later, where Turkey is no longer the country that is kneeling in front of Europe's door begging for membership. Turkey already is a regional factor, one of the most dynamically developing economies, a member of the G20 - the Group of most influential countries in the world. The country where public opinion is already demonstrating a consciousness of self-significance and a lack of need to identify themselves with the European identity.

The lessons

One of the most important lessons, according to Polish PM Donald Tusk (whose country is presiding the EU at the moment) is that terrorism is a real threat for the ideals of freedom and democracy. "The only effective method of defence is well organised solidarity and cooperation of the international community". According to Mr Tusk, ten years later we are better prepared but in no way are we more secure. "The recent bombings in Norway, which killed so many innocent people, have confirmed that the source of terrorism lies not in differences arising out of religion, race or nationality", is said in the special statement of the Polish premier.

EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles De Kerchove listed earlier this week 10 of the most important lessons which we have to derive from the anniversary. He puts in the first place the need of a terrorism strategy. A very important lesson, according to De Kerchove, is to invest more and in a more creative way in prevention, although it is still necessary to understand better the processes that radicalise people. Human rights and rule of law are the third very important principle.

"The EU has challenged the 'Global War on Terror', a paradigm of the previous US administration. Terrorists have to be investigated, prosecuted and convicted according to the normal rules of criminal law. This takes the false glamour out of terrorism. The Madrid bombers are never referred to as 'martyrs' like Guantánamo inmates. Why? Because they stood a fair trial and were convicted for their criminal acts", the European coordinator has added.

Among the other lessons that are worth deriving from the attacks on 9/11, according to De Kerchove, is increasing data collection and data protection, more research in the area of security, focusing on cyber crime, better integration of internal and external aspects of security.

One of the most essential lessons, however, should be that 10 years are enough for us to forget. Especially when we are overburdened with problems of the size of the economic crisis, the transition to the second stage of globalisation and the big migration flows, caused by various factors. As Thomas L. Friedman writes in his book The World Is Flat, the flat world provides opportunities as for those who want to develop their business, to get to know the world or just to meet new people, as to those who want to cause evil.

We should also pay more attention to Tony Blair's words that evolution is preferable to revolution because this is one of the most important lessons which he himself had derived from the past 10 years, and most probably many of his colleagues around the world - democracy cannot be enforced, it is being bred. And regarding freedom, we should have learnt already that freedom is not granted it is being gained. And this is precisely what the peoples from the Arab Spring do. This is why especially important is the question that Al Jazeera asked its viewers - How should we teach 9/11 at school? I think that 10 years later we are still not ready to answer unequivocally this question.