In the late hours of the 13 November, members claiming to be affiliated with Daesh, a terrorist group otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL which operates in Iraq and Syria, attacked several sights in Paris, killing over 130 people and injuring many more with numbers of the wounded totalling in the high hundreds. The worst attack on France since World War II, the president of the Republic, François Holland, responded swiftly declaring war on the Islamic State in a statement given to all members of French Parliament held at the Palace of Versailles.
The United States and Russia have pledged their support with France in attacking a global terrorist threat. As a member of the European Union, it is highly likely that France will expect the support of their fellow neighbours, linked by cultural bonds and a shared economy. While Germany has pledged to provide help and support, the nation has stopped short of providing direct military assistance despite Hollande’s call for EU military support under article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 42.7 stipulates, “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 means in their power, in accordance with article 51 of the United Nations charter.” The article provides for defence solidarity in the case of an attack on a member state.
The French Defence Minister called for the help of other members of the European Union, stating “France cannot do everything at once”. The request was supported unanimously in a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels. France will have to create bilateral relations with other members of the European Union to ensure the type of military help and aid available to the French within their own borders and fighting Daesh overseas. The call for reinforcing borders in the European Union has also been made. However, France seems to be suggesting that they need help with all aspects of their military operations around the world from Operation Serval in Mali to the bombing campaign uprooting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
While support for France was unanimous, it remains to be seen the amount of support France will receive in their fight against what has become a global terrorist threat. The United Kingdom has pledged all support to France following the attack, stating that they will do whatever they can to eradicate terrorism and support the French government. Germany has pledged to support France but has drawn the line at directly entering the conflict in Syria and Iraq with fierce opposition coming from German political parties.
Positions within the European Union on Syria have evolved as a result of the attacks on Paris. Many western European nations, and France’s strongest allies, have reportedly changed their military focus towards Daesh and not the al-Assad regime. Luxembourg has the harshest stance against the Syrian President, arguing that he should be deposed by military means. Russia, although not a part of the European Union, is actively supporting Bashir al-Assad and the Syrian Army against the rebels in the Syrian civil conflict.
It remains to be seen whether the EU will contribute in a large scale campaign, similar to the United States calling upon it’s allies in 2001 following 9/11. The Iraq War had direct and disastrous consequences for all nations involved and more than likely contributed to an increase in the call for radical Islam in Iraq. The role of political and military interference in the Middle East has created resentment amongst many Iraqi citizens. This resentment has turned into anti-Western sentiment, which we saw displayed in Pari.
France should consider, very seriously, which road it wants to head down in the next few months. Deaths committed in the name of political terror are a tragedy and Daesh should not go unpunished. However, as history shows us, military intervention rarely works in terms of eradicating dangerous forces in the world. France and its allies, including the European Union, needs to gauge the long term cost over short term vindication and find a way to silence terror without directly contributing to the increase of extremism around the world.
Zoe Meers is the January - June 2016 Young Australians in International Affairs Europe and Eurasia Fellow. She is undertaking a Bachelor of Arts at Smith College, majoring in Political Science and Government.
Image Credit: European External Action Service (cropped) (Flickr: Creative Commons)