EU to appoint a ‘Mr Terrorism’ but ‘European CIA’ a long way off

Interior Ministers have backed the idea of
appointing a ‘Mr Terrorism’ to co-ordinate EU action against
terrorism. Proposals to create a European intelligence service
received little support.

Interior Ministers and Member States permanent
representatives to the EU agreed in principle to a proposal
by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to appoint a
European security co-ordinator. The new post would be held
by a top level Council official under the responsibility of
Javier Solana. This represents a setback for the European
Commission, which had been eyeing up the post. A formal
decision is expected at the European Council (see
EURACTIV, 19 March
2004

).

Austrian proposals to create a European CIA-style
intelligence agency to pool information on the extremist
threat were rejected. "That would not be useful... We have
to network the intelligence services that exist," said
German Interior minister Otto Schilly calling for regular
meetings of intelligence chiefs in Brussels. "The creation
of new institutions will only delay improvements on the
ground," French Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy had said
ahead of the EU talks. The common feeling is that the
operational co-operation of national intelligence and
police agencies is what matters. To this end, the
Commission proposed setting up a new co-ordination
mechanism, what it calls a 'clearing house', for the
exchange of information between Europol, Eurojust and
intelligence services.

The interior ministers of the EU's five biggest
countries (G 5) - Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain
- who have met informally before the Council meeting to
fine-tune a common approach, announced they were sending
their intelligence chiefs to Madrid on 22 March to discuss
operational details of cross-border anti-terrorism
co-operation.

Along with the Commission, British Home Secretary David
Blunkett, whose country is considered under particular
threat from Al-Qaeda, said the priority should be
implementing anti-terrorism measures agreed by the EU after
the 11 September attacks on the US.

Javier Solana said the EU also needed to improve its
dialogue with third countries where counter-terrorism
needed to be enhanced. He named no countries but diplomats
have pointed to the need for better co-ordination with Arab
and Muslim countries. Juergen Storbeck, head of Europol,
the EU police agency, told the ministers he saw no
immediate threat of new terrorist attacks but stressed the
need to reinforce intelligence cooperation for this summers
European football championships in Portugal and the summer
Olympics in Athens.

Foreign Affairs ministers and heads of state and
government will discuss these issues further, as well as
measures to cut off terrorist funding, during their meeting
on 22 and 25 March.

 

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