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EU Big Five To Tackle Immigration Differences

AFP/DW staff (nda)October 18, 2004

Interior ministers from five leading EU states gather in Florence on Sunday hoping to smooth out differences over how to tackle illegal immigration and strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The G5 ministers have different views on dealing with refugeesImage: AP

The so-called G5 meeting takes place against the backdrop of a small peaceful demonstration by immigrant support groups, protesting plans put forward by Italy and Germany to create holding centers for Europe-bound migrants in Africa.

The plan, which is fiercely opposed by France and Spain, is among those being discussed by the European partners in a bid to control rampant illegal immigration.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets of Florence on Saturday to protest against the meeting of the ministers from the so-called Group of Five countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

They marched through the centre of the city behind a banner declaring "Florence against racism, nobody is illegal" which was written in Italian, English and Arabic. Further protests are planned on Sunday afternoon; when the meeting was due to get under way.

Terror and organized crime also on agenda

Innenminister Otto Schily und David Blunkett
Image: AP

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu is hosting his counterparts David Blunkett of Britain, Otto Schily of Germany (both pictured), Dominique de Villepin of France and Jose Antonio Alonso of Spain at the talks, which end Monday.

The other main topics of discussion will be the fight against terrorism and organized crime, according to Italian officials. High on the agenda will be the need to strengthen cooperation and exchange information between police and intelligence agencies from the five countries. "For global terrorism, we need a global response," said Jose Antonio Alonso earlier this week.

Germany, France and Spain will point to their efforts to share their national registers of those with criminal records by the end of 2005 and are expected to press the other countries to do likewise.

Britain opposes Euro police idea

Wei Wei Hu Geiseldrama in Münster
Image: dpa

However, Britain has already made clear its opposition to some elements of closer judicial cooperation with its European neighbors, including the creation of a European prosecutor's position, and increasing the cross-border investigative powers of the Europol police system.

"The decision to pursue an individual must remain in the national domain, and we do not support plans like the creation of a European prosecutor," a junior British home office minister, Caroline Flint, told her parliament recently.

France however has moved closer to the once controversial German position that a European police force should have a broader mandate across the European Union.

Exchanges of information

The five governments have regularly exchanged information on suspected terrorist activities since agreeing to do so at their first meeting in Spain in May last year.

The ministers will also discuss how to assist the European Union's newest members to tackle organized crime networks in their countries.