EU earmarks €30m to protect places of worship amid terrorism fears

Senior EU official says war in Gaza has heightened concerns of extremist attacks in Europe

The scene in Paris where a German tourist was killed on Saturday. AP
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The EU will spend €30 million to protect places of worship amid heightened fears of terrorist attacks during the Christmas holiday season because of the war in Gaza, a senior official said on Tuesday.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she would announce "in the coming days" a call for funding of €30 million ($32.5 million) for the protection of places of worship and public spaces to counter the perceived heightened terrorist threat in the bloc.

"With the war between Israel and Hamas and the polarisation it causes in our society, with the upcoming holiday season, there is a huge risk of terrorist attacks in the European Union," she said, as she arrived at a meeting of the EU's 27 justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels.

"We saw [it] recently in Paris, unfortunately. We saw it earlier as well."

A Frenchman with a history of mental illness on Saturday killed a German tourist and injured two others in Paris, shortly after pledging allegiance to ISIS. A similar attack occurred in October in Brussels, in which two Swedish tourists were killed.

The attacker in each case reportedly expressed grievances over the war that broke out on October 7 when a Hamas attack on Israel killed 1,200 people. Israel's intense retaliatory bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed almost 16,500 Palestinians, according to Hamas authorities.

These so-called lone-wolf attacks are considered hard to prevent by police and have led to security concerns in France about next summer's Olympic Games in Paris.

Ms Johansson said she was worried by the "huge increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in the EU [...] and the threat towards places of worship, the threat a lot of people feel in their daily life."

"This is of course something we need to tackle together," she said.

The war in the Middle East has triggered a rise in anti- Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. In a joint statement published last week, EU officials expressed their concern and said that the two communities felt "more and more unsafe and threatened, online and offline."

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser sent her condolences to France after Saturday's attack, which she said highlighted “just how acute and how serious the threat posed by Islamist terrorism is currently in the EU”.

“The war in Gaza and Hamas’s terror are exacerbating this situation,” she added.

Updated: December 05, 2023, 5:26 PM