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News 19 Nov 15

Romania to Help France Counter Terrorist Threat

As France seeks military support from EU allies in the war against Islamist terrorists, Bucharest has expressed willingness to help.

Marian Chiriac BIRN Bucharest
Romania stays close to the EU in its fight against terrorism.

Romanian officials say they will respond to France's request for military assistance following Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, but the form and the size of Romania's involvement has yet to be agreed.

European Union countries, Romania included, on Tuesday unanimously activated the "mutual defence clause" of the EU treaty, which means they should offer help to France in its military operations agains Islamic State, ISIS.

Paris called for military support from EU states invoking the Treaty of Lisbon to counter the terrorist threat.

France is the first EU state to invoke article 42.7 of the treaty, which requires all other member states to offer such aid and assistance “as they are able”.

While details concerning the kind of assistance will be subject to bilateral conversations, Romania has already expressed readiness to help.

"Romania should give French warplanes access to its airports but also should deliver humanitarian aid, for example,” General Ion Oprisor, an adviser to the National Security Department in the Romanian Presidency, said.

"Details of the assistance have yet to be discussed,” he added.

Experts are already talking about intelligence-gathering as the first form of likely support for France.

Romania has been safe so far from terrorist actions but many are now worried about problems on that front. Officials are trying to calm public fears.

„Terrorism... only has results when it spreads fear. We can not let fear get into our society ... and we also cannot let xenophobia, ultranationalism and chauvinism become relevant and lead to stigmatisation of an innocent religious community,” President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday.

Amid growing concern about Islamist extremists entering the European Union posing as refugees, the EU is to further discuss the refugee crisis and border controls at an emergency meeting of EU justice and interior ministers on Friday.

Reports say France plans to ask EU states to step up background check controls on the bloc’s external borders.

Currently, border control authorities can only verify whether passports are valid but have no access to police databases to check criminal records.

Analysts say the Paris attacks will change the nature of the EU’s debate on refugees.

"Romania is at war with terrorism. We have to accept this situation and stay close to our allies from the EU and NATO,” political analyst Cristian Unteanu said.

"One of the main challenges of the government will be to integrate Romania into the [passport-free] Schengen space, and – to a large extent - into the EU’s new policy of defending its borders,” he added.

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