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Europe

US travel alert exposes lack of EU 'single voice' on terrorism

At a European Union interior ministers meeting, EU officials demand answers from US officials over a terrorist alert for citizens traveling to Europe.

Police officers stand in front of Berlin's main train station

Key tourist sites in Berlin and Paris were mentioned in the US alert

European Union interior ministers have come away from a meeting in Luxembourg stressing a need for the EU to speak with one voice on security matters such as terrorism threats.

The interior ministers heard from US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute, who was invited to join the meeting to explain a recent travel alert from Washington warning US citizens to be vigilant of terrorist attacks when visiting Europe.


In the wake of the travel alert, only a handful of EU countries issued travel warnings, while Germany refused to do so, instead warning against overreacting.


But Belgian Interior Minister Annemie Turtelboom, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said after the talks with Holl Lute that Europe needed "to be able to anticipate more and avoid alarming the population, and to frame better the message coming from our continent."


"Several [EU] colleagues have insisted on the need to have a single voice," she added.


Governments should warn the Joint Situation Center, the EU's intelligence coordination hub, Turtelboom said, before issuing public warnings on terrorist threats, as well as try to harmonize their terror-alert scales.


"It is very important, because in my country we use levels one, two, three and four, while others use colors," she said.

Police patrol at the Eiffel Tower

Paris was named as a potential terrorist attack site


EU versus national control


Several countries, including Germany and France, want to block closer cooperation by EU member states on security in order maintain control of their domestic security structures.


"We are listening to what the US is saying, we'll pay more attention, but the response is national and according to our own evaluation," French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said.


His German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, suggested that some EU countries had preferential access to US intelligence, as the level of cooperation was "to some extent connected to the threat level and to the tradition of cooperation" with trans-Atlantic partners.

'No new information'

The US media extensively covered the US State Department's travel alert for Europe, even naming specific targets in Berlin and Paris.

Great Britain quickly followed suit, issuing its own warning for travel in France and Germany specifically, and Japan made a similar announcement for all of Europe on Monday morning.

But Germany countered on Monday that the threat of a terror attack was no higher than usual.


In a statement to reporters, de Maiziere said that the German targets specifically mentioned in media reports had been known as potential terror targets for some time, and that there was no new information regarding the vulnerability of these sites.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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