France and Germany are heading in very different directions as elections approach and the threat of terror undermines social cohesion. The rest of Europe is watching
After six terrorist assaults on civilians in less than a fortnight, France and Germany are reeling from a series of shocks that, beyond the immediate fears and tensions they have sown, will increasingly test Europe’s liberal democratic order. Both countries are experiencing an unprecedented wave of violent acts just as they gear up for key elections next year. An already volatile, angst-ridden situation is amplified by a political context of rising populism and partisan point-scoring.
As France struggles to cope with the aftermath of the killing of Father Jacques Hamel in his church near Rouen, barely 24 hours after Germany had experienced its fourth assault in a single week, the sentiment is growing that life as people have known it is unravelling; and that the new normal may resemble a mixture of unpredictable, hidden dangers and a rush to large-scale security measures. In France, where attacks began in 2012, talk of “war” with jihadi terrorism has become commonplace. There is a nationwide state of emergency. Germany neither talks of war, nor is there a state of emergency. But after Ansbach, the first Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing in Germany, the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, acknowledged that Germany too had become a target for international terrorism.