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Terrorist attack in Barcelona

Events in Catalonia should serve as a call for a new political agenda

Bystanders caught up in Thursday's events in Barcelona.
Bystanders caught up in Thursday's events in Barcelona.Giannis Papanikos (AP)

There is a deliberate choice of enemy when it comes to terrorism and this time it has targeted a city that represents like no other the kind of open, democratic and multicultural spirit that radicalism is intent on stamping out.

Thursday’s attack in Barcelona was a blow struck at the very heart of an iconic, dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis visited by millions of people from all over the world. It was an assault on one of Europe’s Mediterranean economic and cultural powerhouses, but it was also an assault on Spain, which has waged a relentless struggle against terrorism since Madrid was bombed in March 11, 2004; it was also an attack on Europe, which has become a prime target for Islamist extremists determined to destroy everything it stands for.

Thursday’s incident has to be a wake up call for Catalonian politics

In a devastating attack on La Rambla, the driver inflicted his violence on the city’s busiest tourist district, indiscriminately mowing down people from all over the world. At the time of going to press, the number of victims was 13 dead and more than 100 injured in the bloodiest attack on Spanish soil since 2004.

Since then, Spain has managed to escape terrorist violence. Due to the efficiency of the police and the justice system, strict security measures, effective intelligence and coordination with police at the international level, Spain has managed to contain a threat that Thursday’s attack reminds us is still very real.

The attacks over recent months in Manchester (22 dead at a concert in 2017), Berlin (12 dead at a Christmas market in 2016), Nice (84 killed and 300 injured by a truck in 2016), Brussels (32 dead and 300 injured in 2016) and Paris (130 killed in clubs and bars and 12 killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, both in 2015), together with fatal incidents in other parts of Europe involving the use of knives, machetes and vehicles, not only suggest that the terrorists are raising their game, but also that they are reverting to increasingly cruel and lethal methods, such as mowing people down with vans and trucks.

This latest terrorist attack also reflects the emerging profile of terrorists able to operate alone or in small groups, whose ideology enables them to belong to an organization that while ethereal, uses the social networks to indoctrinate quickly and effectively. The fight against this new type of terrorism is more complex: as ISIS suffers defeats in Iraq and Syria, there is a knock-on effect on their followers in Europe.

The radicals have focused on Catalonia, along with the North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and on Madrid. Obviously, Spain’s security forces need to coordinate closely to avoid attacks such as took place on La Rambla. But the challenge facing us is not simply a matter for the police. Such an attack needs an efficient and coordinated response by the central government. The job of state authorities, with the government at their head, is to guarantee the safety and liberty of its citizens, using all the tools at its disposal.

We call on the regional government to deal with Catalonia’s real problems

Therefore we applaud the fact that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has decided to join forces with the Catalan regional government in supervising the response. It’s the least we can expect in a crisis of this kind that unfortunately coincides with a particularly confused moment in Catalan politics. However, we believe that such consequences should go beyond the circumstantial.

An attack of this magnitude should be a wake up call for Catalan politicians, including the regional government, parliament and pro-independence movements, which have made the independence fantasy the sole issue on Catalonia’s political agenda over the last few years. It’s time to ditch the democratic nonsense, the flagrant law-breaking, the games, the tactics and political opportunism. It’s time that those governing us start working for our real interests.

The fight against terrorism requires complete coordination and a concerted effort among the various authorities and security forces. And this kind of collaboration can only be achieved if there is absolute trust between the various layers of government and state bodies. So we appeal to the Catalan regional government and politicians in the region to work on a real agenda that will address the real problems affecting the people of Catalonia.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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