The attacks in Paris have fanned security fears and nationalist feelings. I am a young European who grew up in a free Europe, and I am worried.

A poster in Berlin, 14 November 2015. (EPA/Gregor Fischer)
A poster in Berlin, 14 November 2015. (EPA/Gregor Fischer)

By Pauline Bock

I’m what they call a “millennial.” I am also a journalist. So of course I read it on Twitter first.

“Shootings in Paris.”

I didn’t have any plans on Friday night. I had to get up early the next morning and was getting ready for bed when my news feed turned hectic. I called every person I knew to make sure they were OK. I felt immensely lucky to learn they were.

The faces of the victims that appeared on social media over the weekend were no different from mine or my friends’. I drink in bars, I go to rock concerts. That night I happened to have chosen Netflix over a mojito. I cannot stand the thought that people were killed for just being alive and young.

When I called my sister, she had just left the cinema. She had seen “Nous trois ou rien,” a movie about an Iranian family resettling in France. “When you called,” she told me later, “I was telling my friends how lucky we were to live in Paris, a place safer than the Tehran the movie depicted.”

It seemed absurd: a few miles away, innocent people were being killed by terrorists. It wasn’t Tehran in the 1980s; it was Paris in 2015.

“I am worried.”

I heard President François Hollande say on TV that France was at war. I was born in 1992, the year of the European Union’s Maastricht treaty. “War” was never a word I used in the same phrase as “France.”

I grew up in the Lorraine region, which was part of Germany between 1871 and World War One, then reclaimed by France. I can drive from my home to the German city of Saarbrücken without passing any customs points. My grandparents speak fluent German, and la Sarre river near their village marks the border. In the middle of a bridge over the river is the German border, but both sides are home to me. Both sides are Europe.

Britain is in the EU, too. For now and hopefully for a very long time. I have lived there and plan to live there again. But I am worried because Britain could leave the EU, because Euro-skepticism is on the rise there and elsewhere on the continent.

I am worried because extremist politicians in France could benefit from a backlash sparked by these attacks, because Britain and France are unable to take care of refugees in Calais, because border controls have re-emerged in Europe in recent months and because distrust, especially towards migrants and Muslims, is spreading fast.

“Europe faces a danger just as great.”

I grew up moving freely around Europe, and I have always thought that going backwards was impossible, that nationalism was a thing of the past — not with the EU, Schengen and the Erasmus program that sends students overseas.

But I can’t help but worry when I hear France’s Socialist government propose amending the Constitution to allow stepped-up surveillance of terrorism suspects — a move that could expose Muslims to discrimination.

I worry when I hear right-wing politicians call for the closing of France’s borders. When British tabloids resort to language to describe refugees that recalls words used against Jews in the 1930s.

On Friday, Islamic State attacked my country. There was a clear, awful, physical danger, and I was lucky to escape it. Now Europe faces a danger just as great: the abandonment of its principles in the name of security and nationalism.

The Europe I grew up in would have stuck together. I hope the one I live in will stick to its ideals.


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Pauline Bock is assistant editor at News-Decoder. A recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Sciences Po, she has worked as a journalist in Paris, London and New York. She is passionate about culture, European politics and human rights.

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