The terrorist who murdered two Swedish citizens in Brussels last Monday was a Tunisian who had been in Europe irregularly for 12 years. He had been in Italy, was imprisoned and expelled from Sweden and ended up in Brussels, where he not only requested asylum, but on at least one occasion began the paperwork to register. On the continent there are more cases like him, including jihad veterans hardened in Syria and trained in the Caliphate. And although there are legal mechanisms to force the expulsion and return of him to the countries of origin, it is not always done, it is often done poorly or the track is lost without much effort to avoid it. That is the “intolerable” situation that the EU now says it wants to definitively stop.

“It is not time to point the finger at anyone, but the case of the Brussels terrorist should be a wake-up call and a turning point. He was here since 2011 on an irregular basis and Tunisia is a country that collaborates in returns We have to improve internal coordination. The good news is that we have the legislation ready. The previous one is from 2008 and our proposals are on the table. Hopefully we can start the trilogues now and finish them during the Spanish presidency to have an appropriate returns system. “One with 27 different models is not efficient,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said this Thursday at the conclusion of the meeting of the sector’s ministers in Luxembourg.

Today in the Grand Duchy there has been a lot of talk about the issue. Sweden has organized a breakfast with several countries that have been victims of jihadism in recent years and later, during lunch, the ministers addressed it under the presidency of the Spanish Fernando Grande-Marlaska. Right now the legislation, which is 15 years old, allows for expulsions of those considered a serious threat. But the new Directive proposal, part of the entire Migration Pact package that has been negotiated for years, establishes that it is not only possible, but mandatory for everyone. It is not enough to expel a neighbor, to get rid of the problem, but outside the Union.

“Right now people who pose a security threat and have received a return order can be asked to leave the country voluntarily. We need to change this urgently. We, the European Commission, have proposed that if a person poses a threat to national security, the member states have the power to force her to leave,” Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said on Wednesday in a joint appearance with the prime ministers of Belgium and Sweden.

Commissioner Johansson, who reminded her that this year the “returns of those who do not have the right to be here have increased by 20% compared to last year”, has called an emergency meeting for this Friday with the different member states “to ensure that those who pose risks can be returned to their countries of origin. It must be a priority,” he assured. Likewise, she has invited governments to develop a pilot project to apply the spirit of those standards that are currently being discussed. “Member States can now speed up the processes and immediately return those who pose a threat. With our proposal it will be mandatory because whoever is a threat is a threat to everyone. It would be good to start the trilogues soon, but in the meantime, the States can agree even if it is not mandatory in the legislation. We can work on a pilot project,” he said.

The recent attacks on the continent, and the escalation of the Israeli intervention in Gaza after the brutal attack by Hamas, have set off all the alarms in a continent that still has open wounds from the numerous attacks suffered in the last eight years. Christmas is, in this context, a particularly sensitive period, since everyone remembers the murder of 12 people at a Berlin market in December 2016.

The mayor of Madrid has asked to raise the alarm level for those dates, but has received a harsh response from Luxembourg from the acting Minister of the Interior. “We must anticipate events and maintain monitoring over time and a constant assessment of the risks that may affect our societies and take the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of European citizens. There are specific places that may reasonably need greater level of protection and we agreed to continue working on intelligence exchanges (…) But no political representative should make partisan politics in this regard. The levels of terrorist threat are not something capricious, we have professionals from all the security services and intelligence and its information. What a representative cannot do is partisan use. I should not say anything more as president of the Council,” he said.