EU to streamline anti-terrorism strategy

Interior and foreign affairs ministers are to
discuss new counter-terrorism measures and review old promises
in order to pave the way for the adoption of a beefed-up EU
action plan by the European Council.

Commissioner Vitorino will brief the Justice and Interior
affairs ministers, during their extraordinary meeting on
Friday 19 March, on the Commission’ views on what needs to
be done to tackle terrorism more effectively. The special
JHA Council and that of the Foreign affairs ministers on 22
March will map out a package of measures to be adopted by
the European Council to boost the fight against terrorism.


New ideas

:

“Mr Terrorism”, appointing a terrorism “security
coordinator”

Proposals being considered include creating an EU “Mr
Terrorism” to co-ordinate a security clampdown. Prodi said
that a Commissioner could be in charge but Member States
have to decide if this coordinator will be from the
Commission or the Council.

Setting up a CIA-style intelligence agency for
Europe

Austria proposed a European CIA during the last JHA Council
and Belgium called for a co-ordination centre for
intelligence sharing after the Madrid Attacks. However,
most Member States are rather reserved about this idea,
especially big countries like France and Great Britain.
Diplomats think that the sharing of sensitive information
between 15 countries, and soon 25, is very delicate as it
could increase the possibility of leaks. Furthermore, there
is a clear lack of cooperation between the intelligence and
police services, which needs to be adressed as a first
priority.

However, broad agreement exists that improved mechanisms
for co-operation between police and security services and
the promotion of effective, systematic collaboration in
intelligence services between Member States must be found.
Spelling out the basic dilemna, a diplomat said that
everybody wants co-ordination but nobody wants to be
co-ordinated. The Commission stresses that Member States
should enable the Europol Terrorism Task Force to work
effectively by providing it all operational information,
not just limited and filtered strategic and technical
intelligence. It suggests putting in place a new
co-ordination mechanism, what it calls a ‘clearing house’,
for the exchange of information between Europol, Eurojust
and intelligence services.

The Commission announced that it will,
by the end of March 2004, put forward a proposal for a
Council decision aimed at broadening the exchanges of
information on convictions for terrorist offences and
cooperation between Member States, Europol and
Eurojust.

Cutting off terrorist financing

The Commission proposes introducing customs controls on
cash movements at the external frontier. It calls for a
speedy adoption by the Council of the Draft Framework
Decision on the confiscation of crime-related proceeds,
instrumentalities and property. This Framework Decision
seeks to ensure that all Member States have effective rules
governing the confiscation of proceeds of crime, including
extended powers of confiscation. The Council reached
political agreement on this instrument on 19 December 2002,
but formal adoption has to await the lifting of
constitutional and parliamentary reservations by two Member
States.

The Commission and the European banking sector are
establishing an electronic database of all persons and
entities whose assets have been frozen. The database will
be operational in the summer of 2004. < P>
“Solidarity” clause

The Irish presidency and the Commission propose that the
Heads of State and Government, the Parliament and the
Commission adopt a declaration of solidarity. With this
declaration, the Member States and the European
institutions would commit themselves to provide all
possible support and assistance to Spain in investigating
the Madrid terrorist attacks and in preventing acts of
terrorism in the EU. The draft declaration is based on a
solidarity clause which is foreseen by the draft
Constitutional Treaty.


Better implementation of the existing EU
anti-terrorism strategy

:

The European Council is expected to urge
all Member States to implement measures they have already
agreed to. The Commission presented an action plan to
reinforce the fight against terrorism, in which it
highlighted agreed measures needing speedy implementation,
on 18 March 2004.

Joint investigation teams

Only nine Member States have notified transposition
measures to the Commission on the Framework Decision on
joint investigation teams, which provides the legal setting
for investigators from two or more Member States to work
together to tackle cross-border criminal activities. This
Framework Decision should have been implemented by Member
States by the start of 2003.

Increasing cooperation inside Europol and
Eurojust

Europol, the EUs own law-enforcement
agency, is an intergovernmental body where the Commission
sits as an observer. It is staffed by police and customs
officers. Europol has helped to prevent a terrorist attack
targetting Strasbourg. However, Member States’ police
authorities do not inform Europol systematically. Two
Member States have not yet established their national
contact points to exchange information on terrorism with
Eurojust and Europol.

Bringing terrorists to justice

The Commission announced that three
Member States have not fully reported on the implementation
of the framework decision on the fight against terrorism,
and that for the others it is not yet clear that national
measures fully implement the requirements of the Framework
Decision. The framework decision on the fight against
terrorism, adopted in 2002, contains a definition of
terrorist offences, defines infringements linked to
terrorist acts and approximates the level of sanctions
between Member States.

The European arrest warrant will replace
present extradition procedures for serious crimes,
including terrorism. It makes it compulsory for a person
wanted for an offence incurring at least four months’
imprisonment to be handed to the judicial authority in the
Member State requesting his surrender by the Member State
that person is currently in. While EU Member States were
required to implement the European Arrest Warrant by the
end of 2003 but Austria, Italy, Germany Greece, Netherlands
have not yet done so.

 

Brian Cowen,
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs

, stressed that "the fight against terrorism must be
conducted in full respect of human rights and fundamental
freedom" and highlighted the EU's determination to
address the causes of terrorism: "to seek to understand
the causes of terrorism should not be misunderstood as
being soft on terrorism. On the contrary, this is an
essential step in its elimination".

The
Commission

does not believe that the right answer to these attacks
is proposing new legal instruments or new institutions.
First, because most of the legislative and institutional
framework is proposed or in place and simply needs to be
approved and/or implemented on the ground. Second,
because we cannot afford to wait for long legislative
procedures to give answers to such atrocities. Priority
is now on co-ordinating operational action. The
Commission states that the implementation of the measures
to combat terrorism is often slow, poor and inadequate
and says this is "unacceptable".

"We have to discuss thoroughly the entire [security]
strategy and we will do it at the Summit next week. The
anti-terrorism commissioner could be a piece of that
strategy," said Mr Prodi.

Loyola de Palacio adressed the
difficult issue of tackling terrorism in public
transport. She admitted that there was little room for
upgrading security in public transport in urban areas.
She quoted as an example that it would not be possible to
scan the three million passengers that use public
transport to travel in and around Paris every day.

There is a lot of talk about new things. The truth is
that the EU made a series of decisions af the September
11, and a lot of them have not yet been carried out, says

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen

, stressing the need for enhanced co-operation between
intelligence services and national police forces.

 

Terrorism has leapt to the top of Europe's agenda
after the rush-hour train blasts in Madrid, which killed
over 200 people and injured some 1,500 people on 11 March
2004. Fearing further Al Qaeda attacks, leaders from
across Europe are calling for measures to close security
gaps and step up Europe's coordination against
terrorism.

The EU adopted an action plan to combat terrorism in
September 2001 following the attacks on the
United-States. This action plan was subsequently fleshed
out but has not proved sufficient to prevent an attack on
European soil. Some Member States have experienced delays
in its implementation.

 

The JHA Council and the
Foreign Affairs ministers are meeting on 19 and 22 March
to pave the way for the European Council, meeting on
25-26 March, to adopt a beefed up EU response to
terrorism.

 

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