There is a “huge risk” of terrorist attacks across the European Union in the coming holiday season, a senior EU official has warned.
Ylva Johansson, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, said the ongoing war in Ukraine and the upcoming Christmas festivities had created a “perfect storm” for extremists to carry out attacks.
“We are facing a very serious threat,” she told reporters ahead of a meeting of EU home affairs ministers in Brussels.
“The war in Ukraine has further exacerbated the situation, and we are seeing a rise in radicalization and extremism.”
Johansson said the EU was taking steps to counter the threat, including increasing security at airports and train stations and stepping up surveillance of potential extremists, reported The BBC.
“But we also need to be aware that we cannot eliminate the threat entirely,” she said.
“We need to be prepared for the possibility of an attack, and we need to be able to respond quickly and effectively.”
Johansson’s warning comes as Europe is on heightened alert following a number of recent attacks in France, Germany, and Austria.
In October, a man in Paris was stabbed to death and two others were injured in an attack that was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Last month, a German man was arrested on suspicion of plotting a Christmas market attack.
And in November, a man in Austria was arrested after he was found to be in possession of weapons and explosives.
The EU is urging its member states to take steps to strengthen their security measures, and it is also working to improve cooperation between national intelligence agencies.
“We are working very closely with our member states to share information and to coordinate our response to the threat,” Johansson said.
“But we also need to work with our partners outside the EU, such as the United States and Turkey.”
The EU is also working to counter the spread of extremist propaganda online.
“We are working with social media companies to remove extremist content from their platforms,” Johansson said.
“And we are also working to educate young people about the dangers of extremism.”
Despite the challenges, Johansson said she was confident that the EU could cope with the threat of terrorism.
“We have strong security measures in place, and we are working closely with our member states and our partners,” she said.
“We are determined to do everything we can to protect our citizens from the threat of terrorism.”