An appropriate tribute to the Spanish victims of terrorism



This evening we all share in the mourning of the Spanish people. An immense wave of solidarity unfurls throughout the European Union giving support to one of its grievously wounded Members.


The media reporting has allowed every individual to visualise the horror. The human drama of families who have lost loved ones, the suffering of the wounded and the exemplary dedication of the rescue services have been widely commented.


At the same time appears le litany of official message of support, the declarations of immediate and firm action and in depth analyses on the responsibilities by a wide variety of experts. Of course it is human that the first reaction is one of fury and disgust; of course it is normal to give priority to measures aimed at reinforcing security and to take measures to identify rapidly the culprits. But if it stops there, then these victims will have died in vain.


The impressive mass demonstrations in Madrid and throughout Spain express deeply shared ideals by the whole population and prove, overshadowing all political divides, an overwhelming desire to see democracy prevail and an end brought to terrorism. These values are shared by the great majority of European citizens.


If we really wish to pay tribute to these innocent victims, Europe must - under the impulse of the European Council – take the opportunity resulting from these terrible events to make very rapidly proposals which, outside this specific context, would not necessarily command the support of public opinion.


Europe should assert its leadership in the field of development aid to the neediest countries throughout the world. A solemn commitment to dedicate to that objective annually an amount equal to 3% of the Union’s GNP, which would represent a colossal sum when compared to existing appropriations, could find wide support in the public opinion. Citizens would readily understand that such a decision would be a major contribution in the medium and long term to the objectives of ensuring both security and serenity in their daily lives.


The public should not be mislead into thinking that this proposal constitutes a miraculous “solution”. Indeed, before such measures begin to have an impact, threats and actual acts of terrorism will continue to occur. But such a policy has a much greater chance of engendering durable positive results than promoting a “Fortress Europe” mentality, the vulnerability of which only exacerbates feelings of hate.


Such action would be a real tribute to all victims of terrorism, to which, no doubt, each citizen through his tax contributions would be more than willing to participate: preferably by conviction of the appropriateness of the proposed action but – maybe less gloriously – at least by fear that, without greater solidarity in a global world, the privileged position of Europe will not survive.


It is also a unique opportunity for the – shortly to be 25 – Member States to act together on the world scene and to appear as a major participant in world governance.


Then hope can be reborn and the dead in Madrid will have been honoured with the respect they are due.


Brussels, 12th March 2004



Paul N. Goldschmidt

Director, European Commission (retired)


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