EU pledges $189 million to redesign cities against attacks

A file photo taken on Aug 18, 2017 shows the van that ploughed into the crowd at the Rambla in Barcelona. After a dozen such cases, authorities have struggled to protect public spaces without disrupting cities' open character or busting tight budgets
A file photo taken on Aug 18, 2017 shows the van that ploughed into the crowd at the Rambla in Barcelona. After a dozen such cases, authorities have struggled to protect public spaces without disrupting cities' open character or busting tight budgets. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - The European Commission pledged 118.5 million euros (S$189 million) on Wednesday (Oct 18) to help Europe's cities guard against attacks and outlined how EU countries could do more to curb the sale of bomb-making materials.

After a dozen cases in Europe of drivers using vehicles to plough into pedestrians, like the August attack in Barcelona, authorities have struggled to protect public spaces without disrupting cities' open character or busting tight budgets.

Security Commissioner Julian King said 18.5 million euros of EU funding would be made available this year and 100 million euros in 2018 to help redesign cityscapes to mitigate the risks.

"We can't stop all attacks, we can't deliver zero risk, but we can make it harder and harder for terrorists," King told a news conference.

"We believe we can take action to make public spaces less vulnerable without fundamentally changing their nature."

The EU executive wants cities to come up with "innovative solutions" to protect buildings and crowded spaces that could be copied elsewhere. These could include changes to the design of a public space, lighting or public awareness campaigns.

Some cities, such as Nice, where a man at the wheel of a truck killed 86 people in July 2016, have invested in barriers, new traffic routes and other security measures, but many more have not.

King warned that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's losses during military campaigns, including by the Russian-backed Syrian army and US-backed militias, may increase the threat of attacks in Europe as militants seek other ways to operate.

The EU executive is also taking steps to ensure EU governments were acting to counter what King said was an acceleration in the use of homemade explosives for attacks and to guard against chemical, biological or nuclear threats.

The EU has passed regulations to crack down on the purchase of over-the-counter products that can be used to make explosives such as TATP, which has been used by militants in several attacks in western Europe in recent years, including Manchester in May, Brussels in 2016 and Paris in 2015.

While security experts worry about the risks of militants using higher impact materials such as chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials, the Commission said the overall threat of this remained low.