Paris Attack and the Role of the European Union


This article analyzes the Paris attack of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Paris on 13 November 2015. Within the framework of this analysis, it has been seen that religious-motivated and international terrorism cause both internal and external security problems to a very significant extent. At the same time, the analysis of the key factors that came to the fore in the Paris Attack and the evaluation of the performance of the European Union were made. It has been analyzed how the new generation of terrorism has created international security problems with organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL.

Keywords: International Security, International Terrorism, Internal and External Policy, ISIL, European Union, ISIL and Paris Attack

Literature Review

This article analyzes the anti-terrorism policies of the European Union towards the Paris attacks in 2015. In this regard, both in terms of efficiency and legality, the European Union has faced problems in the fight against terrorism. As a solution to these problems, a proposal to restructure the EU’s policies and adopt a new intelligence model was presented. I have mainly focused on the article “The EU and its Counter-Terrorism Policies after the Paris Attacks” (Bigo et al., 2015). 

Research Methodology

In this research paper, I aimed to investigate whether the internal and external security policies of the European Union are successful against terrorism or not. Furthermore, I have used the content analysis method in this research paper in order to formulate and investigate the issue. Therefore, I have used the existing data from different authors and articles related to the issue that has been referred to in this paper. The sources that have been chosen in this paper are carefully selected based on the topic of international security and terrorism. 


On Friday, November 13, a terrifying incident took place in Paris, the capital of France in 2015. In the attacks that took place in Paris and Saint-Denis regions after 21:15, very explosions and clashes were experienced. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, targeted different points in three groups. While one group aimed to detonate a bomb in the Stade de France, another group attacked the most crowded restaurants and cafes on the streets of Paris. The third aggressive group attacked the rock concert held in the Bataclan theatre, which approximately 1500 people attended. Hundreds of people were injured and unfortunately lost their lives in the theatre where many hostages were taken and the conflict took place. There was almost chaos on this bloody night where approximately 137 people died.

The horrific Paris attack, together with the Madrid incident in 2004, has become one of the events in the European Union where most people lost their lives. In France, where such an attack has not been seen since the Second World War, then-President François Hollande stated that these attacks by ISIL were like an act of war. So, what was behind the main event that led to these attacks? France contributed to the military attacks against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, especially in terms of the air force. At the same time, France, which supported the Kurdish Forces that challenged and fought against ISIL in the region, has been one of the targets of ISIL. Before the Paris shooting took place on 13 November 2015, a few months ago, warnings were made by Turkey against France in case such a situation could occur. However, the distrust and indifference of French diplomats and officials towards Turkey, which is not a member of the European Union, caused the death of many citizens in France. After the bloody attacks, France decided to close its borders to all countries for the first time since the end of the Second World War and to implement stricter policies on internal security issues. In addition to deciding to close its borders, France declared a state of emergency for the first time in its history after the uprisings in 2005. In terms of internal security, emergency plans called “plan blanc” and “plan rouge” have been activated for such situations.

1. Positions of Key Actors

As with the attacks in Beirut before the Paris shooting on Friday, November 13, 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant assumed responsibility and became one of the key actors in this incident. Besides, France and the European Union are other actors (Bigo, 2015). The European Union has a very important role in increasing the quality of life of citizens living in Europe, ensuring their freedom and security. The European Union and France aim to protect border security by collaborating on internal and external security issues (Bigo, 2015). From this point of view, Eurojust, Europol, and Frontex are actors working under the umbrella of the European Union. After the Paris shooting, with the joint decision of the European Union defence ministers and Federica Mogherini, who was in the status of the European Commission Vice President, France’s request for military assistance from the European Union was accepted (Bigo, 2015). In line with this decision, France has embarked on the process of taking steps to solve the national security problem and increase anti-terrorist actions against terrorism (Bono, 2006).

2. Evaluation of the EU Performance

The fact that the European Union, besides France, remained silent in the face of intelligence from Turkey and did not pay enough attention, reveals the weakness of the importance given to foreign security issues by both actors (Bono, 2006). At the same time, the fact that Frontex, Europol, and Eurojust are not sufficiently supported by the European Union allows terrorists to pass through the borders of the European Union member states more easily. According to Article 42(7) of the Treaty on the European Union, in an armed attack against a member state of the European Union, other states must support and assist the state under attack (Neuwahl, 2016). The important point here is the fact that terrorist activity is related to both internal and external security. France, which is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as the European Union, can request assistance from the member states according to Article 5 of the NATO agreement (Neuwahl, 2016). However, instead of cooperating and collaborating with NATO, France preferred to take steps with the European Union on common internal and external security issues. After these attacks, the European Union faced two kinds of challenges in terms of efficiency and legality in the fight against terrorism. The main problem to be explained here is that the judicial and legal standards determined by the Court of Justice of the European Union do not comply with the broad surveillance technique. The lack of intelligence and the doubts about trust between the member states of the European Union raise the question of what the European Union should do about these issues (Neuwahl, 2016). One of the most important steps will undoubtedly be the strengthening of the agencies that play an active role in the borders of the European Union member states, as well as better coordination of operational cooperation (Bono, 2006). At the same time, the European Union may choose to develop a new model for the security problem. This model should be a constructive model that aims at the criminal approach based on justice and cooperation between countries (Neuwahl, 2016). The European Union has shown its commitment to aid its member states in this case. On the other hand, poor performance in internal and external security issues was also noted.

3. Identification of Critical Factors

In the last half-century, the European Union has taken many steps to ensure the security of both its institutions and its member states. However, despite this, in the rapidly globalizing world, internal and external security issues have revealed an increasing chain of problems for many countries (Monar, 2014). The Paris shooting in France can be given as an example of this situation. The steps to be taken by European nations to protect border security and support cross-border operational cooperation will reduce possible terrorist activities. It is an essential fact that the European Union countries should cooperate and act jointly against ISIL, which took responsibility for the attacks on Paris on 13 November 2015 (Monar, 2014). As a result, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took responsibility for the citizens who were injured and lost their lives in the Paris shooting.

4. Evaluation of the Paris Attacks within the Framework of the Concept of Terrorism

Taking responsibility for the Paris Attacks, ISIL has a structure that has identified itself with the Islamic motif terrorism model (Kaplan, 2011). The fact that the number of militants reached approximately 50,000 people, especially after 2014, has brought this terrorist organization to a very dangerous level. This organization, which does not limit the terrorist acts it has carried out only on a national basis, sets an example for international terrorism (Kaplan, 2011). This organization, which has been carrying out attacks on strategic planning and civilian life since 2015, surpassed Al-Qaeda and gained the status of the largest Jihadist organization. Its members hold an unconditional belief in their cause (Kaplan, 2011). This situation increased the belief in the martyrdom of those who died for this cause and increased their motivation for terrorist acts. This organization, which describes those who do not stand up for their beliefs and values ​​as traitors, has become a bloodier terrorist organization, especially after the United States and France violently increased their air strikes against ISIL positions (Kaplan, 2011). ISIL has not only organized terrorist acts in France. It has also organized terrorist activities in many other countries such as Turkey, England, and Spain (Monar, 2014). From this point of view, it has been determined that the organization has exceeded its national borders and caused international terrorism.

5. Evaluation of ISIL’s Position in the Scope of the Four-Wave Theory

Anarchist Wave, Anti-Colonial Wave, New Generation Left Wave, and Religious Wave put forward by David C. Rapoport are one of the most important theories explaining the evolutionary process of terrorism today (Rapoport, 2004). According to this theory, it is known that radical religious-motivated terrorism started after the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Camp David Agreement, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and the Kaaba Raid (Rapoport, 2004). While ISIL reached the peak of its power by capturing 1/3 of both Iraq and Syria in 2014, it also led to radical religious-motivated terrorism. Especially after the terrorist activities carried out by Al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, the concept of new generation terrorism has taken its place in the literature and the term terrorism has entered a transformation process as a result of the increase in globalization (Rapoport, 2004). After the United States President Bush’s “war against terrorism” and “preventive war doctrine” statements in 2001, it has been seriously seen how terrorist activities threaten both national and international security. Contrary to traditional terrorism, the new generation terrorism model seeks to maximize the destruction of civilians (Rapoport, 2004). Organized acts of terrorism not only aim to instil fear in the public, but also have a political purpose. It has been observed that ISIL, which adopted the new-generation terrorism model in the Paris Attacks, caused very serious international security problems (Rapoport, 2004).


As a result, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have decided, under the leadership of the United States, to engage in terrorist activities against the countries responsible for air strikes against ISIL. France, which has given serious support to the international alliance formed by the United States, has become one of the primary targets of ISIL. ISIL took responsibility for the bloody terrorist activities organized against Paris, the capital of France, on 13 November 2015, stating that this was retaliation and taking responsibility for the attacks. 

The Paris attacks have revealed that the European Union countries have very serious national and international security problems. It has been seen in international terrorist activities that both the internal and external security policies of the French government were not successful enough (Martinez, 2016). To increase its national security, the French government requested assistance from the member states of the European Union instead of military aid from NATO. The idea that institutions such as Frontex, Europol, and Eurojust, which are responsible for the border security of the European Union, should be further strengthened both economically and organizationally, was determined as a result of terrorist activities (Martinez, 2016). We can deduce that ISIL, which is the largest representative of religious-motivated terrorism and international terrorism, has adopted the new generation of modern terrorism model. As a result of our analysis, it was seen that the Paris Attacks caused weaknesses in both internal and external security policy strategies due to the open border policies followed by the European Union (Martinez, 2016). 

As a result of the treacherous terrorist attacks, the French government declared a state of emergency and significantly increased its support for anti-terrorist actions against ISIL. In this regard, France has been one of the countries that have given the greatest support to the air attacks carried out by the international alliance against ISIL positions until 2019 (Martinez, 2016). As a result of these intense attacks, the international terrorist activities carried out by ISIL, which lost a lot of territory and militants, were hit hard. As a result of the Paris Attacks, it was determined that the anti-terrorist policies carried out jointly by France, the United States of America and the European Union resulted in vital success against ISIL (Martinez, 2016). 

Emircan SARI

Terörizm Araştırmaları Staj Programı


Bigo, D., Carrera, S., Guild, E., Pierre Guittet, E., Jeandesboz, J., Mitsilegas, V., Ragazzi, F., Scherrer, A. (2015). The EU and its Counter-Terrorism Policies after the Paris Attacks. CEPS Paper in Liberty and Security in Europe, (84).

Bono, G. (2006). The Impact of 11 September 2001 and the “War on Terror” on European Foreign and Security Policy: Key Issues and Debates. In: Bono, G. (ed.) The Impact of 9/11 on European Foreign and Security Policy. Brussels University Press, strany 13-32.

Bures, O. (2020). The Counterterrorism Coordinator and the Commissioner for the Security Union: Does the European Union Need Two Top-level Counterterrorism Officials? Terrorism and Political Violence, online first 10 March 2020, 1–21.

Genson, R. (1998). The Schengen Agreements – Police Cooperation and Security Aspects. In: Cullen and Gilmore (eds) Crime sans frontières. Edinburgh University Press, s.133-140.

Kaplan, J. (2011), ‘David Rapoport and the Study of Religiously Motivated Terrorism’ In J. E. Rosenfeld (ed.) Terrorism, Identity and Legitimacy: The Four Waves Theory and Political Violence. Routledge.

Martinez, E. (2016). Globalization and the ‘Fourth Wave’: Contemporary Terrorism” in a Comparative Historical Perspective. University of Central Florida 

Monar, J. (2014). The EU’s growing external role in the AFSJ domain: factors, framework and forms of action. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 27(1), 147–166.

Neuwahl, N. (2016). Cooperation under Article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union in Reaction to the Paris Attacks. European Foreign Affairs Review 21(1), 5-7.

Rapoport, D. (2004), ‘The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism’ In Audrey Kurth Cronin and James M. L. (eds) Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy. Georgetown University Press 46.

Wouters, J. & Naert, F. (2004). Of Arrest Warrants, Terrorist Offences and Extradition Deals: An Appraisal of the EU’s Main Criminal Law Measures against Terrorism After “11 September”. Common Market Law Review, 41, 909-935.

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