Senator warns that even the Czech Republic could become a target for a terrorist attack

Josef Jarab

Last month's terrorist bombings in Madrid meant that Friday's conference in the Czech senate on Democracy and Security was a timely one. The conference discussed the best ways for democratic governments to fight the threat of terrorism whilst maintaining civil liberties.

Josef Jarab, the chairman of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Security, participated in the conference. Although the Czech Republic is part of the US-led coalition in Iraq, many would feel that it was not the sort of country that needed to fear a terrorist attack on its territory. However, Senator Jarab maintained that it wasn't completely immune from a possible assault.

"Fortunately, Czechs have not had to deal with the immediacy of a terrorist attack. On the other hand, I believe that people do feel that the threat could become something very real at any time. I think the attack on Madrid for instance, brought it closer to Czech minds that you do not have to be a major power to become a target."

In view of this potential threat, how well prepared is the Czech Republic to counter the risk of a possible attack here?

"I would not dare say that we are adequately prepared for any security threat that could come from whatever source. It is very difficult I think even for Europe to be ready to really fight back or withstand a terrorist attack. The same is probably even true of America. I still have a feeling that everyone who is in charge [of the situation] has to say that we are still vulnerable [and] we are not really one-hundred-percent bulletproof."

One issue touched upon at the conference was that the bombings in Madrid appeared to have an influence on the recent elections there and were instrumental in bringing the Social Democrats back to power. Does Senator Jarab think that there are any political parties here who might capitalize on a terrorist attack if one occurred in the Czech Republic?

"For the Communists, it's quite clear. They would say: 'You see! We should never have meddled!' For others, I think they would unite more against the Communist voice and say: 'Yes, we live in a world where terrorism is a real threat and we had better think about it in an active way [in terms of] how we fight it and how we can prevent it from hurting us...'"

Some conference participants also mentioned the fact that there appears to be a transatlantic gap in terms of how Europe and America view the fight against terrorism, with Europe seemingly preferring more cautious means to America's active militaristic approach. Senator Jarab, who is also a member of a Czech parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, believes that the upcoming accession of the ten new EU members may help bridge this gap:

"I have warned our colleagues from Western Europe when they speak about how [Turkey's possible accession] would cause too big a change in the atmosphere of the European Union. I have warned them and repeatedly said that the ten accession countries may also change the debate in the European Union. Where the new members would have a different view would be the role of America in recent history, because it was more America than Western Europe [during the Cold War] where people were seeking and getting support for ideas of freedom, etcetera."