Be careful but don't be fearful. You are more likely to encounter pickpockets than terrorists.
Over the last few months we’ve watched Europe suffer barbarous terrorist attacks in France and Belgium, and now terrorism is suspected in the crash of an
EgyptAir flight from Paris. As summer vacation season begins, it’s not surprising that fear has crept into our psyche.
Fear, however, shouldn’t prompt you to forestall your European travel plans.
The odds of you being present in Europe for a terrorist attack are very slim. On any given day regardless of where you are, the odds of dying from a terrorist attack are about 1 in 20 million. You are more likely to die in countless other ways, including from being crushed by furniture. Those factoids can’t compete with the jarring images you’ve seen from Paris and
Brussels, but they should reassure you that Europe remains a safe place.
That said, you should exercise vigilance whenever you are on vacation no matter where that vacation takes place. New York City can be as unfamiliar and dangerous for a first time visitor as London, Amsterdam, and Rome.
Here are a few actions you can take to minimize fear and maximize your enjoyment:
- Educate yourself before arriving in Europe on dos (keep your passport with you in a secure place) and don’ts (put your wallet in a loose pocket);
- Check the State Department on travel alerts and warnings for current news;
- Know exactly where you are going when touring cities by using updated maps, including the locations of U.S. embassies and consulates;
- Don’t gather in large crowds in public places; and
- Be constantly aware of your surroundings and take precautionary measures if something doesn’t feel right.
Keep in mind, failure to be smart doesn’t mean you’ll be the victim of a terrorist attack. It is far more likely you’ll be the victim of a crafty pickpocket.
As you do your part, security services all over Europe have significantly increased their activities to detect any terrorist activities and to arrest suspected terrorists.
U.S. intelligence services also are helping to improve weaknesses in European intelligence operations and sharing information as much as possible. Together, these actions should inhibit new attacks in the near-term.
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Though the suspected terrorist downing of the EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo raises troubling questions about security measures at French airports, the reality is only two out of tens of thousands of flights from Europe to America over the last 15 years involved attempted terrorist attacks after takeoff. The last occurred in December 2009.
For decades, countless Americans have enjoyed amazing historical sights, unique cultures, sumptuous food and unparalleled artwork across Europe. Our shared love of freedom is what makes Americans and Europeans more than just cousins separated by an ocean.
We must never let terrorists scare us into submission. They win when we cower. So just as nearly 1.7 million of our European friends still came to America in the three months after the 9/11 attacks, we should flood them with our friendship now.
Matt A. Mayer is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously served in senior positions at the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security.