After Norway massacre: Will this country ever be the same?
A view from the secretary general of the Council of Europe, a former prime minister of Norway: I am often asked what will happen in Norway now. At first, I answered that it will stay an open society. But we need to become more aware of what terrorism is, where it comes from, and how we speak about it.
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And political leaders must assume much greater responsibility. This was the reason why, as secretary general of the Council of Europe, I appointed a “group of wise persons” last summer to analyse and advise on what can be done to help us live together in a multicultural world. (The council’s 47 member countries promote democractic principles based on the European Human Rights Convention.)Skip to next paragraph
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On my visits to European capitals presenting the report, it struck me how much weight everyone gave to the responsibility of political leaders and the media. They complained of opportunism among political leaders and a media bias toward conflict.
They underlined the responsibility one has to explain to people the real situation. Namely, that multiculturalism is here to stay. Europe has always been a continent of many religions and ethnic groups. Whenever we have not been able to live with that, the worst disasters have ensued.
We must not only accept the multicultural, we must take advantage of it. We need to change our mindset, our mentality, and we must value the advantages we can draw from our diversity.
I have advocated expanding the European security concept beyond its focus on military matters. I call it “deep security.” It has to do with how we can live together without escalating conflicts: security deep down within the society.
The values that bind us together are the basis for this deep security. They are enshrined in the European Human Rights Convention. It contains the rights of individuals, and their obligations. You have no obligation to give up your religious or ethnic identity. But you have an obligation to respect common European values.
Europe has received a clear warning from Norway. Perhaps Breivik operated alone. But I am afraid he has started a new trend. A new form of nationalism emerges, but the old adage applies: All nationalism comes from something bad, and leads to something bad.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, hatred of foreigners is a European challenge.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gave an opposite signal to that given by the American president after Sept. 11, 2001: “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” It divided the whole world. President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, among other things, because he immediately started to build bridges.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg has set a course that Europe should now follow. It aims to build bridges within societies, helped by democratic institutions. We cannot change Breivik. Our safety lies in the human relationships we are able to build.
Thorbjorn Jagland is the secretary general of the Council of Europe. He is also chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and was the former prime minister of Norway from 1996-97. A version of this article appeared July 29 in the Aftenpost, a daily Norwegian newspaper.