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Hollande calls France to war; recalls the EU Treaty and invokes Europe’s assistance

A historic speech was delivered in Versailles. “In the fight against Jihadists we will be ruthless.” The dead in Paris – he said – must be “avenged.” He demanded special powers and urged the Country to react. He invoked EU’s “help and assistance.” Solidarity and some reticence from G20 leaders.

Parigi, 16 novembre 2015: la Francia si è fermata alle 12 per un minuto di silenzio in memoria delle vittime degli attentati. Il presidente Hollande e il primo ministro Valls erano all’Università La Sorbona, dove hanno intonato la Marsigliese tra la folla

He declared: “France is at war.” He remarked: “We are not committed to a war of civilizations, because these assassins don’t represent any civilization.” He threatened: “In the fight against Jihadists we will be ruthless.” Yesterday François Hollande gathered Chamber and Senate members in Versailles – for the third time in the history of the Republic – to deliver a speech that is a declaration of war against terrorism, after the deadly attacks in the heart of Paris. High alert at domestic level, three-month extension of the state of emergency, revision of the constitution to grant special powers to the President, and, outside the national borders, bombardment of ISIS targets. Last but not least: Europe must help France.

Aggression against the Republic. The speech in Versailles follows hectic days with the definition of an anti-terrorism strategy, the commemoration of the victims, while the Country – at the Sorbonne, in schools, in the streets – sings the Marseillaise. Raids in Belgium and the Netherlands on the trail of the alleged bombers did not yield the desired results. In Syria, the international alliance is targeting Daesh strongholds. The G20 summit closed in Antalya with an ideal embrace to France, a condemnation of terrorism, but if failed to consider land military action. Hollande, however, is determined:

: “That of Friday night is an act of war. At least 129 people were killed and numerous wounded: they represent an aggression against our Republic, our values, our young people.” Terrorism has no borders. In fact, he went on, the terror attacks “were decided and planned in Syria, organized in Belgium”, perpetrated with the support of “French citizens who killed other French citizens” along with nationals of 19 different Countries. Then, a phrase that perhaps was widely feared: “Those who were killed must be avenged.”

Appeal to Europe. The socialist President, low in popularity until now, dogged by Marine Le Pen’s nationalists, already busy with the organization of the International Climate Conference Cop21 (November 30), raised his eyes: terrorism “is not an enemy of France but of Europe.” He then quoted from Art. 42, paragraph 7 of the EU Treaty, which states: “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power.” He also urged Europe to control external borders, to welcome refugees entitled to asylum rights, and to reject economic migrants.

From the Sorbonne to the G20. The call to arms pronounced in Versailles corresponds to an international reaction with at least three facets. First of all, there’s the face of solidarity in the streets – as in churches, mosques, synagogues – in Europe and in the rest of the world, in silence or in prayer, to remember the victims of the Bataclan and of the other sites attacked on Friday. Then, there is a climate of widespread fear: militarized Brussels is hunting for the jihadis with raids in the Molenbeek neighbourhood, while the anticipated Belgium-Spain football match was cancelled for security reasons. Finally, there is the support of the G20 in Antalya (Turkey), that links the fight against ISIS to the war on terrorism, that pledged military, financial and online commitments, decided to field the intelligence against the foreign fighters but remained silent in terms of military land action in Syria. This occurs against the backdrop of the migration crisis, cause and effect of a hot international scenario: from Antalya Angela Merkel made known that it was “decided”, together with British Premier Cameron, “to hold a conference on refugees in London, next February 4.”

Hanging questions. Several questions linger on. All actions to counter terrorism must unquestionably be firm, overarching, and shared. However, won’t the bombardments in Syria increase international tensions? Will they not fuel further cross-border hatred, with the risk of more attacks on European grounds? Will there be solidarity also in the response to the acts of violence against innocent civilians in all corners of the planet? Moreover, is the discontinuously invoked Europe ready to respond to Hollande’s appeal? Will the UN offer its much-needed “political hat” for EU intervention and for an all-out battle? Will NATO – “the armed wing of the Western world” – remain idle? These questions are as urgent as the response to the terrorist threat.

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