Geneva to Tighten Security Ties With France After Paris Attacks

  • City deserves special attention given UN presence: Maudet
  • Impact on city from Paris attacks to be discussed Thursday

Geneva, home to dozens of international organizations, will bolster security collaboration with France in the aftermath of last month’s terror attacks in Paris, says Pierre Maudet, head of its cantonal government’s security and economy departments.

The canton of Geneva, where the United Nations’ European headquarters are based, shares a 100-kilometer (63-mile) border with France, which heightened security following attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead. The canton will work more closely with French authorities to limit radicalization and avoid potential attacks on Swiss soil, the 37-year-old former mayor of the city said.

“People think borders protect them, that we should shut them,” Maudet said in an interview in his office in Geneva’s historical center, behind the St. Pierre Cathedral. “The message must be: more cooperation with France, having the capacity to pursue people on the other side of the border if we discover something, more interaction.”

Border controls between Geneva and France have been intensified following the attacks, which targeted restaurants and bars and the concert hall Le Bataclan in central Paris as well as the national soccer stadium, Stade de France, on the city’s outskirts. While members of the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party had called for the shutting down of borders even before the Paris attacks, Swiss Minister for Justice and Police Simonetta Sommaruga said on Nov. 18 there were no grounds for it.

‘Special Attention’

Although Geneva is under no imminent risk of a terror attack, the city of almost 200,000 inhabitants needs “special attention” given the presence of international organizations and companies, Maudet said.

“My biggest concern is the security of international Geneva,” he said. “In this respect, Geneva could be a target as well. We shouldn’t underestimate the risks we may face.”

The Swiss city, nestled on one end of Lake Geneva, between the Alps and the Jura mountain range, is home to 30 international organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. It also has 250 international non-government organizations and the permanent missions of more than 170 states. This world, dubbed “International Geneva,” employs some 28,000 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were among people who visited the city over the past year for diplomatic talks.

Legitimate Questions

Dozens of multinational companies also have their European or international headquarters in the Geneva area, including Procter & Gamble Co. and Japan Tobacco Inc.

“The international population of Geneva has some legitimate questions” on security, said Maudet, who hosts a press conference on Thursday to detail the measures the city’s authorities are taking following the Paris attacks.

Threats have felt real as French authorities raided the homes of two imams working in Geneva’s Petit-Saconnex mosque, the biggest in Switzerland, and living in nearby France, according to a statement posted Nov. 26 on the website of the Islamic Cultural Foundation of Geneva, which manages the mosque.

‘Wave of Panic’

Other raids, made possible by France’s declared state of emergency, targeted people in other cities close to Geneva, such as Annemasse and Annecy. In Fillinges, a small town less than 20 kilometers away from Geneva, a man was indicted after police found an Islamic State flag and propaganda videos in his home.

Maudet says the challenge is to address security issues while avoiding a “wave of panic.”

“If I start having the city patrolled by policemen in combat outfits like in a civil war, I may reassure people in a cheap way , but I also reinforce the idea we are in this situation. Well, we aren’t. ”

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