FRANCE NICE TRUCK TERROR ATTACKS AFTERMATH.jpg
Crime scene investigators work on the 'Promenade des Anglais' after the truck crashed into the crowd during the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France, 15 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER ANRIGO

The French Riviera city of Nice was already on high alert, just like the rest of the country. The sight of heavily armed soldiers patrolling major landmarks began to seem workaday; people became accustomed to showing their bag contents before entering shops.

But even with repeated warnings that the terrorist threat remained high, and extensions of the country's state of emergency, the end seemed near. Surely, France would revert back to its pre-attack bonhomie. The football championship was over. The state of emergency was set to expire on July 26.

With the latest attack in Nice, though, that expectation was dashed and another sentiment set in. "We are facing a war that terrorism brings, and the goal of the terrorists is to instill fear and panic," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

He wasn't the only official invoking a war. "I have always been on the side of those claiming more measures to fight terrorism because I remained convinced that we are at war," said local politician and regional president Christian Estrosi.

French President Francois Hollande announced in the early hours of Friday that the state of the emergency would be extended by another three months and said that France would reinforce its military presence in Iraq and Syria. He gathered ministers to assess security measures.

This vigilance, just recently unthinkable, may start to be intensified instead. And the difficult questions Europe has avoided by invoking a temporary situation may have to be confronted in all their discomfort.

"I think that most of the European states need to make decisions about what comes first: human rights or the right to live," Israeli Brigadier-General Nitzan Nuriel told dpa.

"As long as they are still debating about issues like that they don't make decisions. And I have the feeling, without criticizing anyone, that they are not ready yet to make these decisions. You can't do those [security measures] without affecting the routine a little bit," he added.

France's state of emergency allows for expanded police powers, including house searches and detentions without a warrant. Earlier this year, the government sought to enshrine some of the measures more permanently, including rules stripping French citizenship from convicted terrorists, but that effort was thwarted.

The then minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, resigned in protest of the proposals. Major human rights groups said the hundreds of searches and detentions were targeting Muslims in discriminatory ways and represented a troubling overreach without sufficient justification.

The line between ensuring people's safety and safeguarding civil protections has fomented bitter debates in France, where liberty is one of the country's most precious principles.

Calls to refrain from overly militarized responses have also resounded on the European level, and left-leaning EU lawmaker Barbara Spinelli said recently that, "In France, as in America, we are witnessing a change in the form of terrorism and radicalization.

"We must try to understand how this transition occurred, without focussing obsessively on individual triggers such as the internet, prisons, schools and the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris. Responding with more state surveillance, less democracy, Islamophobia and proxy wars is only making the situation worse," Spinelli said.

At the same time, after the attack in Nice, Germany said police would step up border controls with France, planning identity checks on anyone suspicious found in the areas near the border to ensure they are not providing assistance to suspects trying to flee France.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 that left 130 people dead, one of the key suspects escaped over the border to Belgium without being stopped by authorities.

The Italian government also said that it had tightened security, in particular at high-risk sites. British Prime Minister Theresa May asked her deputy national security adviser to chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee "to review what we know and what we can do to help."

With lone attackers who are difficult to track, using means that are tough to control, it is still unclear just how much security would have to be employed to thwart such strikes, and exactly what sacrifice such security would entail.

"I belong to the people who believe that terrorism will stay around us forever. As we got used to criminality we need to get used to terror attacks. The only request we can have is to keep it on the lowest level that we can," Nuriel said.

More on this story

French president says around 50 people still "between life and death"

French President Francois Hollande has said that around 50 people are in critical condition, still "between life and death" after an attack in the southern city of Nice.

Belgian National Day to proceed with extra security after Nice attack

Celebrations marking Belgian National Day on July 21 will go ahead, but extra security is being planned after the Bastille Day attack in neighbouring France, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Friday.

Attack on Bastille Day in France leaves 84 dead, including children

At least 84 people were killed and dozens injured when a truck plowed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day along the waterfront promenade in the southern French city of Nice, hitting a country still on high alert from a string of terrorist attacks.

Latest news

Trump: I won't attend White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he does not plan to attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year.

US Democratic Party chooses Tom Perez to be next party chief

The US Democratic Party elected former labour secretary Tom Perez as its next party chief at a meeting in Atlanta on Saturday.

73-year-old man dies after car ramming in Germany

A 73-year-old male pedestrian died from his injuries after being run over when a car rammed into people in the south-western town of Heidelberg, police said Saturday.

Syrian government vows retribution for Homs attacks that killed 42

The Syrian government vowed retribution for synchronized attacks on Saturday in Homs City that left 42 security personnel dead and reportedly involved up to six suicide bombers.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 Croatians suffer from rare diseases

Rare Disease Day, observed on February 28, was marked in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg Square on Saturday.

German police shoot man who rammed car into pedestrians in Heidelberg

Police in Germany shot a man who rammed a car into pedestrians in the south-western town of Heidelberg on Saturday.

Egypt's al-Sissi orders cabinet to help Christians fleeing Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi ordered the government on Saturday to take all necessary measures to help Christians who escaped northern Sinai after the Islamic State militia killed at least six of them over the past month.

SDP MP calls on citizens to raise their voice against restriction of women's rights

Josko Klisovic, a Social Democrat member of the Croatian parliament, on Saturday called on all Croatians to raise their voice against a policy turnaround on women's rights after Croatia took a conservative position in a discussion on human rights in the Council of the European Union.

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's aide of 22 years

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted one of ousted president Hosny Mubarak's closest aides, ruling he was not guilty of corruption and illicit profits.

EU ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin under 24-hour police protection

EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin and her family have been given 24-hour armed police protection due to threats she has been receiving lately, the Austrian paper Der Standard said on Saturday, explaining that the threats were linked to Vlahutin's monitoring of a reform of Albania's judiciary designed to curb corruption in that country.

Italy deports two over suspected contact with Berlin attacker

Italy has deported two Tunisian asylum seekers who have been classed as a danger to national security, the Interior Ministry in Rome said on Saturday.

Croatian PM says HEP IPO most efficient model for INA buyout

Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic on Saturday commented on models for buying back Hungarian oil and gas company MOL's stake in INA, saying that an initial public offering of 25% of the HEP power company's shares to obtain funds for INA's buyout was "the most efficient, fastest, simplest and cleanest option with the fewest participants, which enables the state, which is the owner (of HEP), to control the process in its entirety."