Lars Faaborg Andersen.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel can learn from the European Union how to battle terrorism, and not only the other way around, according to outgoing EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen.
On the eve of leaving Israel at the end of the month, after serving as EU ambassador for the last four years, Faaborg-Andersen told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that regarding anti-terrorism, “We have a lot to learn from Israel, and Israel has a lot to learn from us.”
These comments run contrary to the conventional wisdom in Jerusalem that holds that when it comes to fighting terrorism, Israel – because of its vast and painful experience – can teach the Europeans, currently facing a surge of Islamist attacks in major cities, how to effectively fight the scourge.
From the EU, Faaborg-Andersen said, Israel could learn that “fighting terrorism is an endeavor that requires the whole tool box of instruments.”
He said that one of those tools is a “strong security dimension,” which Israel uses effectively. But, he added, there are other aspects involved as well, including “de-radicalization,” working with social services, and education.
“There are a whole lot of other elements,” he said. “In Europe we have adopted a holistic approach to fighting terrorism. I think Israel could have an interest in studying our experience in holistic approaches.”
Asked how he felt this approach was working in Europe, he responded by speaking of the difficulties in open societies of stamping terrorism out completely. At the same time, he said, there have been successes, and the manner in which Europe is battling terrorism is “better than nothing, and much better than five years ago” when a wave of terrorism started to hit its cities.
“We have now reached the level of preparedness for countering that kind of terror better than in the past,” he argued.
Faaborg-Andersen said that one of the main difficulties is getting the different bureaucracies with different organizational cultures to work together and exchange information and be “one step ahead of the terrorists before they strike.”
Some agencies, he said, may have information that could lead to thwarting information, but that information is not shared.
The Danish diplomat, who will now return to work for his country’s Foreign Ministry, said that he hears that Israel is providing the Europeans with “very, very important information, including on Islamic State.” For the most part, he added, that information flows into the national intelligence services of individual EU countries.Ties between Israel and the EU
were not only strong regarding anti-terrorism cooperation, but in other fields as well, he said, maintaining that the EU’s relationship with Israel is the most developed of any relationship the union has with any non-member country in the world.
The problem, he said, is that “the relationship in its totality is under-exposed.
Few Israelis really understand the magnitude of the relationship that we have, and also that it are so mutually beneficial to us. Instead, there is a lot of focus on things we don’t agree on, which is only 15-20% of the overall relationship.”
According to the ambassador, “it is important to get the proportion right.
Europe is a friend of Israel, in spite of the problems we have. We are fundamentally very strong supporters and friends, and we have a track record to back it up. I don’t want that message to be drowned out in disagreement over certain issues, like the Palestinians.”