Prime Minister Alexander Stubb (NCP) leaves the Élysée Palace on Sunday after attending a unity rally held in tribute to the 17 people who lost their lives in last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.Prime Minister Alexander Stubb (NCP) on Sunday reiterated his steadfast support for free speech and open society while showing his solidarity with the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

“An open society must be protected with openness. We'd be sending the wrong message by withdrawing and building new walls in Europe,” Stubb underscored in a press conference at the Embassy of Finland in Paris. “Security can be enhanced, but not by withdrawing or building walls.”

While Stubb acknowledged that authorities must have the means to prevent crime and terrorism, he also cautioned against excesses. “We've often seen excesses in the aftermath of attacks like this. Politicians are particularly quick to call for stricter rules. We saw this after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for example,” he pointed out.

The Prime Minister travelled to Paris on Sunday to attend a rally organised in tribute to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, which left a total of 16 people dead. In addition, a female police officer lost her life in a separate shooting incident.

An estimated 1.5 million people, including some 50 world leaders, took part in the Unity Rally on Sunday to show their solidarity with the French people. “I think it's absolutely vital that Finland is represented as a defender of free speech in a situation where roughly one-fourth of the world's countries are represented,” estimated Stubb.

The world is according to the Prime Minister moving toward a new era of terrorism, which is evident particularly in the rise of the Islamic State. “The attacks are surgical strikes. They're associated with mindless violence but not necessarily with careful planning, unlike for example [those by] terrorist organisations that plan bombings and suicide attacks.”

French authorities have in recent days come under severe criticism for their inability to prevent the deadly attacks, despite being aware of the Islamic militants who carried them out. The men who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, for example, were known to have taken part in a training camp in Yemen.

Stubb, however, reminded that terrorist attacks today are first and foremost isolated acts of violence and thereby extremely difficult to monitor or verify. Preventing every single attack is simply impossible, he said, adding that he is unsure whether the most recent attacks could have been prevented.

“I think you absolutely shouldn't promise that something like this will never happen in Finland or Europe. We are a part of Europe. This happened inside the European Union, this happened in a country called France,” he emphasised.

On the other hand, he warned against reducing the attacks to religious violence. “This wasn't a religious attack against a religion but a terrorist attack against free speech,” he argued. “Freedom of speech must always be safeguarded and terrorism fought. This is the backdrop against which Finland is [represented] in Paris.”

After the press conference, the Prime Minister proceeded directly to the official residence of President François Hollande.

Inka Kovanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Dominique Faget / AFP