EU anti-terror scheme approved by justice ministers
01.12.05 @ 19:24
EU justice ministers have adopted a new counter-terrorism strategy and an action plan aimed at combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, the EU's top anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gijs de Vries announced on Thursday (1 December).
The ministers, united for a two-day council meeting in Brussels, backed a UK proposal, put forward shortly after the London bombings in July, which centres around four specific areas in which the EU would like to harmonise member state measures and make them more efficient.
The four key themes are prevention of recruitment to terrorist groups, protection of citizens and essential infrastructure, prosecution of terrorists and a response to minimise the consequences of a terrorist attack.
Mr de Vries explained that the objective of the strategy is to prevent terrorist attacks, especially in protecting delicate infrastructure such as transport systems, and suggested a special body in every member state be established to deal only with counter-terrorism.
He added that extended information-sharing between police authorities and databases is an important tool for helping in co-ordination efforts between member states.
Member states have, for instance, agreed to share information about terror suspects within 8 hours after it is known in that country.
Islam and terror
The action plan on radicalisation and recruitment states that the EU needs to "engage with Muslim organisations and faith groups to reject the distorted version of Islam put forward by Al-Qa'ida and others", and should also "create a non-emotive lexicon for discussing the issues in order to avoid linking Islam to terrorism."
Swedish justice minister Tomas Bodstrom sought to calm concerns that some parts of the action plan pointed fingers at Muslims as a group, as possible terrorists.
Mr Bodstrom said that as long as the responsible authorities kept repeating that the measures target criminals, and nobody else, it would be obvious that the EU does not wish to accuse any particular religious group.
Mr Bodstrom also told journalists he regretted that the action plans had not been debated in public prior to the council meeting in Brussels, arguing that this had created unnecessary suspicion towards the EU's counter-terrorism developments.
"We should not have to apologise for combating terrorism, and the methods we use we have to be able to defend openly", he said.
Referring to the detection of people "supporting violent acts", a paragraph in the action plan says "We need to spot such behaviour by, for example, community policing, and effective monitoring of the internet and travel to conflict zones. We should build our expertise by exchanging national assessments and analyses. We also need to disrupt such behaviour."
On questions about whether the Spanish police would survey mosques to make sure that radical interpreters of Islam would not recruit attendants, the Spanish interior minister Jose Antonio Alonso answered that "the controlling of terrorism has to be done where it is created, be it in a phone shop or a mosque."
The Spanish minister also indicated that Spain would like to focus more on the aftermath of terrorist attacks, creating a special European agency for helping the victims of terrorism.
"We need to hand out concrete help, not only nice political statements", he said.
The Spanish minister added he had received a green light from his European counterparts for a Spanish proposal put before the Hampton court summit in October to tackle illegal immigration from Africa, releasing €400 million to finance the plan.
"If we do not have the money, we cannot achieve anything", Mr Alonso told reporters. "We can talk about solidarity, but if we do not have the financial means, we cannot get to the root of terrorism".
He explained that the reason why Morocco had not yet signed a repatriation agreement with the EU, expected before the end of the year, was most likely that no EU money had yet been put on the table.
Spain has proposed that 3 percent of the so-called "Neighbourhood policy" budget for the years 2007-2013 be invested in international co-operation with aid to countries from which migrants arrive to the EU.