Belgian appointed new EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator


EU justice and home affairs ministers have agreed on a replacement for former counter-terrrorism co-ordinator Gijs de Vries, who stepped down at the end of March 2007.

The EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Javier Solana appointed 51-year-old EU law professor and Belgian former minister of justice Gilles de Kerchove as de Vries's successor on 18 September. 

De Kerchove was previously the director for justice and home affairs at the EU Council Secretariat, where he has been responsible for police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. In this capacity, he worked closely with de Vries. 

Solana said he was convinced that de Kerchove "will bring added value to the work of the Council in this key area" of counter-terrorism. In his new function, de Kerchove will co-ordinate the work of the Council of the EU in the field of counter-terrorism, closely monitor the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy, and ensure that the Union plays an active role in the fight against terrorism, according to Solana. 

The post of counter-terrorism co-ordinator was created in 2004 in response to that year's train bombings in Madrid that left nearly 200 people dead. Disagreements over the exact scope of the job are believed to have prompted de Vries to quit and for his replacement to be delayed. 

Addressing reporters before the ministers' meeting, Solana said de Vries's successor should have a "deeper" mandate and enjoy "a much closer relationship" with EU governments and institutions. "Circumstances have changed since the first mandate was agreed. We have learned during this period and it is for intelligent people to adapt to the new circumstances," Solana said. Britain had been particularly keen for the new anti-terrorism co-ordinator to enjoy greater powers. 

Freedom, Security and Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said that there had been almost unanimous agreement among ministers that the new co-ordinator should be a bureaucrat with established knowledge of the inner workings of the EU, rather than a politician. 

Joseph Daul, chairman of the European Peoples' Party (EPP-ED), the biggest political group in the European Parliament, considered the agreement "a step in the right direction". 

Amnesty International, however, was critical of the nomination of the new counter-terrorism co-ordinator. Recalling a vital ingredient still missing from EU policies, in the six years since 9/11, according to Amnesty, the EU has yet to come to terms with the fact that the way in which the fight against terrorism has been conducted has had serious human-rights implications. 

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