EU Ministers Call for Anti-Terror Czar Following Madrid Attacks | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.03.2004
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EU Ministers Call for Anti-Terror Czar Following Madrid Attacks

Europe's interior ministers have agreed in principal to appoint an anti-terror czar in the European Union that would responsible for coordinating counter-terrorism efforts among the 15 member bloc.


Better police work and intelligence sharing is the key to preventing future attacks, say ministers.

The day-long emergency meeting, called by German Interior Minister Otto Schily, took place eight days after terrorists killed more than 200 people in train bombings in Madrid, sparking a debate on the continent's counter-terrorism deficits.

The ministers pledge to improve intelligence sharing among EU countries, cross-border investigation and entertained the idea of setting up a European Union intelligence agency.

"To have a structure exchange and an analysis of intelligence collected by the national services would be a great step forward," Belgian Justice Minister Laurette Onkelix told reporters. A Spanish newspaper reported that the investigation into the train bombings had expanded from Morocco to Belgium and Holland, where investigators believe the group that carried out the attacks made a tape claiming responsibility.

Wanting action on existing measures

Most of the talk Friday focused on implementing already-existing counter-terrorism instruments, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. An in-house report by the European Commission before the bombings took place criticized member states for not enacting anti-terror measures.

Chief among the complaints was a Europe-wide arrest warrant, which five EU countries had yet to pass through their national legislatures. Several countries are also dragging their feet when it comes to adopting EU minimum and maximum sentences for terrorists and a common definition of terrorism. And 11 of the 15 EU members have not yet passed laws to allow police to make cross-border requests to eavesdrop on communications and monitor bank accounts.

"We want action on those measures which have already been agreed upon," British home Secretary David Blunkett, according to Reuters. Great Britain said on Friday it would increase its anti-terror budget by €22.5 million. "What I'm interested in is hard, practical action, like sharing of communications data which roots back the activities of terrorists, which gets into the use of mobile phones and the Internet," Blunkett told reporters.

"Still a lot of egoism involved"

Europol, Europe's police agency, set up an anti-terror desk following the 9/11 attacks. The agency was supposed to be a clearing house for investigative and intelligence information, something experts say hasn't happened yet.

"There's still a lot of egoism involved," Klaus Jansen, a German investigator and head of a police lobbyist organization, told DW-WORLD. He estimated that 85 percent of the information that goes into the anti-terror data pool is from Germany.

Jansen also criticized the lack of a unified computer system which linked national law enforcement agencies and the European Union.

European law enforcement is on high alert following the Madrid attacks. Europol chief Jürgen Storbeck said the attacks reinforced the need to ramp up cooperation before the European soccer championships in Portugal in June and the Olympic Games in Athens in August.

Top intelligence officials from Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and Italy will meet for three-day talks beginning on Monday. The officials will discuss counter-terrorism efforts, the Spanish bombing investigation and cross-border cooperation.

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  • Date 20.03.2004
  • Author DW staff (dre)
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  • Date 20.03.2004
  • Author DW staff (dre)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink