Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: Europe should wake up to the threat of terrorism

From a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York by Nato's Secretary General

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Every time I come here - and I've been here many times since 9/11 - I feel again this huge perception gap where it concerns the fight against terrorism. But we, Americans and Europeans, have to bridge this perception gap.

Every time I come here - and I've been here many times since 9/11 - I feel again this huge perception gap where it concerns the fight against terrorism. But we, Americans and Europeans, have to bridge this perception gap.

The perception gap, in my opinion, is that in this country over the years since 9/11, terrorism - and quite rightly so - is taken very seriously indeed; and that in Europe, we still have complicated discussions of how far governments could go in the relationship with their citizens in the fight against terrorism. So in other words, I think Europe should catch up here, not the United States.

This terrorism is a universal threat because terrorists are not fighting our governments or our societies because of the policies we have or because there is a centre, left-of-centre, right-of-centre government, but they're fighting our societies because of what they are: open, free, democratic societies.

But if the perception gap has to be bridged, it has to come from the European side rather than from the side of the United States of America. I think the impact on your society of 9/11 has been much bigger, and measures more rigorous, than the impacts in Europe of horrible tragedies like the one in Madrid or Beslan. And I think that this perception gap is one of the reasons that we have from time to time complicated discussions in the transatlantic relationship.

May I mention my own country, where we had the murder last week of a movie-make, by an Islamic fundamentalist, which is shaking the country at the moment. For me it's the proof that we have to discuss these problems more seriously than we have done - I'm talking now about my own country, I'm not blaming anybody in particular, but including myself. We have to take this seriously.

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