France has suffered terrorist attacks since the end of WWII. The terrorism stemming from former colonies in the mid-1950s; the terrorism of international communism (Action Directe) and the internationalized Middle-Eastern terrorism (Carlos and the Palestinians at least). Since 1995, France has been the target of attacks by radical Islam terrorism. The Algerian civil war continued on French soil when radical groups like GIA (Islamist Armed Groups) decided to strike France due to its supposed support for the Algerian government. (Attacks on Saint-Michel, Port-Royal, Airbus of Algiers, and various assassinations). Then the Bosnian and the Chechnya wars revealed some networks linked with these new jihad zones. Nevertheless, overall, France controlled the jihadist threat until 2012 and the assassinations of Jews and military personnel by Mohamed Merah.
The situation changed dramatically with the civil war in Syria, with young French-born people finding in it a call to a supreme cause. In less than three years, thousands of youngsters went to Syria to wage jihad. The sudden spread of radical terrorism (or jihadism) with attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Hypercasher (January 2015) and on Bataclan, Stade de France and the streets of Paris (November 2015) was a shock for most of the administration and government. Moreover, jihadist publications like Dabiq or Dar-al-Islam call for the “punishment “ of France through massive attacks.
Regarding the recent past, the June scheduling of the European football championship was a major challenge for the government and security forces.
The Euro championship and the challenge to security
The organization in France of a world-class competition like the European Football Championship in the month of June in Paris,is a huge challenge for security.
President Hollande himself spoke last Sunday evening about the fact that “a threat exists”.
The concrete fact is that 42,000 policemen, 30,000 gendarmes, 12,000 private security agents and 10,000 soldiers in the framework of operation Sentinelle in charge of vigilance over the cities will be involved in security measures.
Regarding stadium access, the security will be similar to airport procedures: arrival 3 hours before the start of the football matches, no bags, and electronic controls and frisking. Metal detectors have been installed for people travelling on high-speed international trains at the Gare du Nord and security guards will scan bags on entry to major shopping and transport hubs such as Les Halles.
But the greatest difficulty will be the effective control (on the German model) of “fan zones” where people in many French cities will meet to enjoy the matches – the biggest ones including tens of thousands of supporters (such as the Champ de Mars in Paris). About seven million supporters visited fan zones in the host cities during Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland!
Each football team (there are 24) will also be protected by 17 police officers and 2 agents each, with France’s elite intervention forces for extra protection like Raid (Police) or Gign (Gendarmerie).
To facilitate the action of security forces, the “state of emergency” launched with the 11/15 attacks has been prolonged for two months; that is to say, ending after the Tour de France, which is the most yearly popular event in this country. This means that:
·The state can temporarily detain every person considered dangerous to security and public order;
·The security forces are able to search day and night without warrants;
·Meetings can be forbidden;
·Circulation and transport can be cancelled in certain places and times;
·Suspicious websites can be taken down.
During the past five months of the state of emergency, 3,549 searches were conducted and 743 weapons seized; 592 searches were followed by judicial procedures and 56 persons have been arrested.
In order to continue the state of emergency (obviously a precautionary measure), the government submitted a law bill to parliament to increase response capability; it was approved in the first hearing on May 10:
·Extension of the close watch for terrorist acts;
·Facilitation of the use of arms by security forces;
·Extension of camera surveillance in the main French cities;
·Temporary detention for jihad returnees.
On the purely military side, a national land command was created by the Ministry of Defence on 1 June (Commandement du Territoire national de l’armée de terre - Comtn) . The aim of this new command is to better prepare and coordinate the army in tackling terrorism on national soil but also to reinforce its contribution to major risk and huge catastrophe aid.
The task is enormous. Regarding the massive use of private security agents (12,000), the Directorate General of Internal Security (Dgsi) screened 3,500 individuals already hired for the job of ensuring the safety of visitors. Eighty-two have been identified as registered in the Ministry of Interior files also known as “fiche S”, that is to say suspected of links with radical Islam and/or jihadism, or having former connections with the extreme left or right.
As reiterated by the President of Republic, the terrorist threat is a reality for Euro 2016. Moreover, Islamic terrorism or jihadism is not the sole threat. On 5 June a young Frenchman was arrested in Ukraine with a huge arsenal of weapons. As reported by security sources he was planning to use it in attacks in France. Police found three rocket-launchers, about 100 detonators, more than 100 kilos of TNT explosives, and half a dozen Kalashnikovs in his vehicle when he was trying to cross the border through Poland. The 25-year-old, who was allegedly linked to far-right groups, according to police and the media, was planning to use the weapons in possible attacks on synagogues or mosques.
In conclusion, France has made incredible efforts in security regarding such a large and complicated event (matches have to be played in various places). Obviously, perfection does not exist in security issues but it seems very difficult to do better on so large a scale. Vigilance, intelligence and purpose will be the three key words of this sensitive period.
Jean-François Daguzan, Deputy Director Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS), Paris
 Laurent Lagneau, Le Commandement du Territoire national de l’armée de Terre a été créé, Openx360.com, 3 juin 2016, http://www.opex360.com/2016/06/03/le-commandement-du-territoire-national-de-larmee-de-terre-ete-cree/#VoGty1UwTy6HfA4i.99.