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Europe

Spain Leads EU in Fighting Terror

Spain, which took over the rotating EU Presidency on January 1, has made the fight against terror a top priority for its current six-month term

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Tough on terror

The nightmare that unfolded on September 11 has raised the stakes in the fight against terrorism. It is a global operation that requires democratic states to act in concert.

Spain, which has suffered at the hands of the Basque separatist group ETA for several decades, is one of the strongest proponents of tough and far-reaching EU measures to combat terrorism.

"I have always felt the worse thing that can happen is that a terrorist has a sense of impunity. If he thinks he can get away with it, that means he is winning," José María Aznar said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The prime minister, who has been offered help from America's electronic surveillance systems in the fight against ETA, is expected to back any further US action against countries allegedly harbouring Al Queda terrorists.

New money new worries

Spain's other main priorities during the presidency will be to ensure a smooth run-in for the euro and to keep the timetable for European expansion on track.

Senior Spanish EU officials have said that they will try to stop member states threatening to derail the expansion process because their valuable agricultural subsidies would go to the new members.

But they have not said whether Spain will set an example by saying it is happy to lose the regional funds that will dry up when a flood of eastern European countries join the EU.

Conflicting Interests

The biggest project of all is the Barcelona summit in June. Mr Aznar, with the backing of Tony Blair, aims to add new impetus to the pan-European economic reforms agreed in Lisbon two years ago.

In Barcelona, the two leaders are hoping to bring into line those member states, like France, who are still dragging their feet on opening up their markets to more competition.

The struggle for national interests, however, has tended to dominate past summits as the European Union gears up for developing a common strategy on contentious issues.

Spain has its work cut out for the next six months.

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