With Europe on maximum alert over the likelihood of further radical Islamist terror attacks, Portugal’s PSP police are now following “precise orders” ensuring increased vigilance in Lisbon.
Sábado magazine revealed this weekend that experts from Europe’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) have already visited the capital to brief police chiefs on the best way forward.
As Paulo Mota Pinto, the president of the country’s intelligence watchdog (the Conselho de Fiscalização do Sistema de Informações da República Portuguesa), told Diário de Notícias in interview: “Portugal cannot become the weakest link in the fight against terrorism.”
Unless measures are tightened nationally, the country could face “new threats”, he warned.
Thus the government is said to be well down the line in preparing new counter terrorism legislation ahead of a Europe-wide meeting on the issue in Brussels later this week.
Observador website writes that Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho met with his Socialist counterpart António Costa last Thursday in a bid to “fine tune” Portugal’s response to the ongoing threat.
Nonetheless, the main “hot potato” centres very much on how radically Portugal is prepared to “change the rules of Schengen space”.
Despite “many countries” having shown themselves willing to alter the rules surrounding Schengen’s so-called free borders (across 26 European countries), Portugal “prefers for now not to talk about the matter”, arguing that the position is “still not closed”, writes Observador.
According to the president of the PS Socialist party Carlos César, the issue is one of intelligence: “The problem is not about inhibiting movement of citizens, but in knowing about the movement. There is no reason to put free movement – one of Europe’s constitutional fundamentals – at risk,” he told the website.
Schengen’s rules may well have to be altered, he accepted, but not in a way that would “conflict with the rights and freedoms” of Europe’s citizens.
Thus for now, the only visible changes in the capital are reinforced police presence on the streets, particularly around the French embassy and Lisbon synagogue – which was recently the target of suspected neo-Nazi daubings.
According to DN, RAN has not only briefed the country’s police forces but has also held special sessions for health and education professionals, and organisations that deal with immigrants.
As RAN explained, “combating terrorism and violent extremism is not simply a question of security measures”.
Now, all eyes are on the meeting in Brussels scheduled for Thursday. According to the BBC, Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi is attending the talks with 28 EU foreign ministers.
High on the agenda will be concerns surrounding the return of radicalised Europeans who have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria.
It is an issue that threatens Portugal only on a small scale, as we have had a proportionately low number of young people leave the country to fight for Islamic Jihad, but as Paulo Mota Pinto stresses, Portugal must be on its guard.
Mota Pinto particularly is calling for changes to the Constitution surrounding the installation of phone taps.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]