Ghent Summit highlights tensions

The informal European Council in Ghent on 19 October highlighted growing tensions between Member States over US military action in Afghanistan. It also tempered apparent progress on issues such as a European arrest warrant and anti-money laundering measures with the realisation that a number of practical obstacles must still be overcome before these can come into effect.

The issue of the introduction of the euro received a degree of attention at the Ghent summit. However, a draft statement calling on the European Central Bank (ECB) to take action on interest rates was watered down in its final declaration, as some countries feared it would be a sign of interference in the Bank’s independence.

The rest of the summit was largely taken up with the issue of EU anti-terrorism measures and the US action in Afghanistan. The future of Europe debate that is to be the focus of December’s Laeken summit and the question of enlargement were largely confined to the footnotes of the meeting.

A pre-summit meeting held between Britain, France and Germany to discuss their support for the fight against terrorism infuriated a number of the excluded Member States. Some commentators see it as giving the impression of a Europe divided over how to approach international security issues.

The practical obstacles to the EU’s proposed anti-terrorism measures such as a European arrest warrant, a common definition of terrorism and money laundering rules were made all the more apparent in Ghent. Reconciling the 15 different constitutional approaches to such issues as well as the many civil liberties concerns will make it difficult to meet the target of formally agreeing on these measures before the end of the year.

 

The official agenda of the informal European Council in Ghent included four points:

  • preparing for the introduction of the euro;
  • the future of Europe and the Declaration of Laeken;
  • the fight against terrorism in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September;
  • enlargement.

 

  • The European Parliament will vote on the money laundering directive at its plenary session on 12-15 November.
  • The next meeting of justice and home affairs ministers that will discuss the European arrest warrant and other anti-terrorism measures will be on 16 November.

 

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