The fight against terrorism is the first item on the agenda of the EU summit. EU leaders are set to agree a raft of measures to improve their co-ordination in the fight against terrorism and increase security in the EU.
Heads of state and government from the EU 25 will start the Spring European Council by examining counterterrorism measures in the wake of the Madrid train bombings. They are due to adopt a beefed-up EU action plan on terrorism proposed by European foreign and interior ministers. Main measures include:
- adopting a NATO-style 'solidarity clause' pledging that a terrorist attack against one Member State is considered an attack against all. The nation under attack is entitled to all manner of military and other assistance
- appointing former Dutch deputy interior minister Gijs de Vries as 'Mr Terrorism', to co-ordinate EU measures to counter terrorism
- beefing up security at bus and rail stations, air and sea ports
- implementing in all Member States by 30 June all the measures of the EU action plan against terrorism agreed to after the 11 September attacks in the United States. This includes the European arrest warrant, joint investigations and anti-money laundering steps. Not all Member States have enacted these measures, and Germany has called for delays on account of its decentralised system, which slows down decision-making (seeEuractiv, 23 March 2004)
- boosting cooperation of police and justice officials through the EU-wide monitoring of communications of terrorist suspects, creating a database on terrorists, beefing up Europol's anti-terrorism task force and setting up an EU border control agency by 2005 to coordinate customs security.
- establishing better intelligence sharing among governments, establishing an EU "intelligence capacity" and monitoring how well EU nations freeze funds and assets of terrorist groups.
- drafting EU-wide rules on retention of phone and Internet records for use by police in investigations for up to three years.
- committing to early approval of the EU-US agreement that requires airlines to give American authorities data on passengers flying to the United States (seeEuractiv, 19 March 2004)
- denying trade and aid agreements to countries that are lax in enforcing anti-terrorist measures.
- fast-tracking the upgrade of EU passports and visas by making them computer-readable, including biometric facial features, by the end of 2005 for all EU countries (seeEURACTIV, 4 March 2004)
France and UK are reluctant to share sensitive intelligence with the 15 current and 10 future Member States, fearing that such a move could lead to sensitive information leaks. They are opposed to establishing a European intelligence agency, modelled on the CIA, as proposed by Belgium and Austria. However, France suggested deeper intelligence-sharing between the five largest Member States (G5) - France, Germany, UK, Spain and Italy - which have the largest intelligence services and work in a similar way.
In addition, EU leaders are expected to address the underlying causes of terrorism by underlining the need to find solutions to global crises such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and speeding up the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government.