Europe was once the world’s most boring continent. Not any more. Here’s a selection of just one day of stories.
Turns out that the leader of the Paris attacks was just one of dozens more jihadis were smuggled in among the refugees, according to credible testimony. France is braced for more trouble:
The latest testimony, which was reported by French media Thursday, came from a woman who provided information that led French police to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian who is believed to have orchestrated the Nov. 13 killing spree in Paris that left 130 dead and hundreds injured.
The woman, who spoke under the pseudonym Sonia, accompanied Mr. Abaaoud’s cousin,Hasna Aït Boulahcen, to a hidden encampment along a highway north of Paris in the days after the attack to meet Mr. Abaaoud.
She said Mr. Abaaoud told them that he arrived in Europe without documents, among the refugees, along with 90 other operatives, including French, British, German, Iraqi and Syrian citizens, an official familiar with her testimony said. The woman testified that Mr. Abaaoud said his network had operatives in the Paris region and elsewhere in Europe, the official said.
About 50 to 60 of the operatives in Mr. Abaaoud’s network entered the European Union by sea or land through Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, according to a Western counterterrorism official. The operatives traveled from Syria through Turkey to reach the EU borders, and then spread to various countries including France, Germany, Spain and the U.K., the official said.
Meanwhile, the EU cut an already grim economic growth forecast:
Growth in the eurozone and the wider European Union will be slightly weaker this year than previously forecast, the European Commission said Thursday, warning that the economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets, as well as failure to deal with the refugee and migration crisis, could further hurt the economy.
The economy of the 19-country eurozone is expected to grow 1.7% this year. While that is a slight improvement from the 1.6% growth in 2015, it is somewhat lower than the 1.8% expansion the commission had forecast in November.
In Greece, there were riots over austerity:
Clashes erupted between demonstrators and police in central Athens Thursday as some 40,000 people marched during a nationwide walkout against pension reforms.
A small group of hooded youths broke off from the main crowd and threw Molotov bombs and rocks at police, who responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades.
The crowd quickly dispersed, but a short while later a group of some 40 youths threw fire bombs at the nearby offices of the socialist Pasok party, causing minor damage.
The first cases of Zika in Europe were confirmed in Spain:
Spain has confirmed that a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with the Zika virus – the first such case in Europe.
The health ministry said the woman had recently returned from Colombia, where it is believed she was infected.
In a statement (in Spanish), the health ministry said the pregnant woman was diagnosed as having Zika in the north-eastern Catalonia region.
It did not release the woman’s name, saying she was one of seven confirmed cases in Spain.
It said two more patients were in Catalonia, two in Castile and Leon, one in Murcia and one in the capital Madrid.
Germany hunts terrorists:
German police have arrested two Algerians suspected of planning an attack and having links to the militant group, Islamic State (IS).[..]
About 450 officers were involved in the raids.
One of the men detained, reported to be aged 35, had been living in a refugee shelter in the town of Attendorn, east of Cologne, and is wanted by the Algerian authorities for alleged links to IS.
Police said “investigations show that he has been trained militarily in Syria”.
And steps up security elsewhere:
Cologne has beefed up security for the city’s annual carnival, after many women suffered sexual assaults and robberies there on New Year’s Eve.
The city in western Germany has put 2,500 police officers on the streets for the week-long event.
Germany was shocked by the New Year assaults, largely blamed on migrants. More than 100 women were victims, but the full scale only emerged later.
And, of course, Russia is moving toward a military doctrine that would make the use of nuclear weapons more likely:
Desiring to close the gap between itself and NATO, Russia has elevated the use of nonstrategic nuclear weapons in its military strategy.
This elevation, “risks lowering the nuclear threshold,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Steven Pifer writes for The National Interest.[..]
Pifer notes that the core concern is Russia’s development of low yield nuclear weapons. These weapons are key to Moscow’s developing strategy of “de-escalation.” The strategy, in short, states that Russia would respond to any conventional war which challenges its statehood with some number of limited and strategic nuclear strikes.
Until relatively recently, American foreign policy thinkers presumed that Europe was one of the most peaceful regions on earth, and that such problems as it had could be handled by European nations and the EU without any serious need for U.S. engagement. Such fantasies now lie in the past; it’s well past time for a pivot to Europe.