EU ministers vowed to unite in the fight against terrorism and committed themselves Wednesday, days after the London bombings, to implementing security laws agreed on a year ago after the Madrid attacks.
Fighting terrorism must remain a joint effort
"None of the proposals on our agenda are new, we were considering them in any case," said British Home Secretary Charles Clarke as he opened the session at the EU Council building in Brussels, called in the wake of the London bombings which killed at least 52 people.
With police expressing fears of further attacks in Britain, Clarke urged his EU counterparts to use the momentum to ensure swift passage of the laws.
"What we have to do is accelerate and speed up our work to agreement, to ensure that we put in place, in practice, the measures which are needed to make the work of terrorism more difficult," he said.
"All of us today are determined to achieve that."
Learning from the past
Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso, who proposed the meeting based on lessons his country had learned after the attacks on trains in Madrid in March last year, said it was important to seize the moment.
London and Madrid share painful experiences of train explosions
Like the Madrid bombings, which killed 191 people, last Thursday's attacks on a London bus and three underground trains are also being blamed on Islamic extremists.
"It is a question of giving a political impulse to some issues. Europe's security space has to be built up, independently of the crises that the European Union is going through," Alonso said as he arrived.
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy expressed solidarity with Britain, but said London needed action more than sympathy.
"What our British friends expect now more than anything today is that we take decisions to reinforce our fight against terrorism because we have not attained the objectives we set ourselves a year ago," he told the ministers.
Controlling borders and telecommunications
Action is more important than sympathy: French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy said equipment had to be developed to allow the taking of fingerprints of all people seeking visas within the Schengen open border zone, and backed Britain on a law giving police access to telecommunications data.
"The framework decision on the retention of electronic data must be adopted as a matter of urgency," said Sarkozy.
French Justice Minister Pascal Clement added that the legislation would be "an extremely useful instrument for investigations into terrorism."
The measure could see data from telephones -- including mobiles, text messages and landlines -- and Internet information like e-mail kept for at least a year, for crime fighting purposes.
Sharing information is essential
The ministers met for around three hours and issued a declaration jointly condemning the bombings and pledging to step up the fight against terrorism. They committed to improving police cooperation and information sharing, finding out what makes people turn to terror, and revising shipping and aviation security.
Pushing for common security standards in Europe: British Home Secretary Charles Clarke
Clarke has also called for the EU's 25 member states to agree common standards for security feature on identity cards, as well as rules to combat terror financing.
"The EU has a weight and authority ... we need to make sure everybody in the EU at a high level is working on these questions, and not everybody is and that's what we have to achieve," Clarke said earlier on Wednesday.
"Unless we succeed ... the people of Europe will say that you, the European Union, have let us down in these key areas," he said.
Tighter security in Britain, raids in Italy
As the interior ministers met in Brussels, British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London told parliament his government would consider tougher action against people who incite or instigate terrorism, including tighter entry procedures, as well as try to promote moderate Islam at home and abroad.
Meanwhile in Italy, hundreds of police swept into Islamic communities across the country raiding dozens of homes, carrying out identity checks and seizing material.
No arrests were announced several hours into the operation, which began in the morning in cities including Turin, Florence, Bologna, Rome and Naples.