24th Jan 2021

Europe still weak on anti-terrorism co-operation

One year after the terrorist attacks in Madrid, the EU chief co-ordinator in the fight against terrorism has admitted that little has changed in practical co-operation among member states, as they fail to implement what they agree on.

Gijs de Vries, a former Dutch interior minister, appointed to co-ordinate EU anti-terrorism activities after the bomb attacks in Spain on 11 March last year, told the Financial Times that enforcement of the measures agreed in Brussels is still the biggest obstacle for improving Europe's capabilities against terrorism.

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"The role of the union is not to supplant our member states but to support them in working internationally. But the main thrust of Europe's defence against terrorism remains firmly at the level of national governments," said Mr de Vries.

He pointed out that the EU remained vulnerable against a possible chemical, biological or nuclear attack, so the member states should prioritise preparations for such acts, and boost their protection of infrastructure and transport lines.

Speaking at a seminar for experts from Europe and Gulf Arab states in Qatar over the weekend, Gijs de Vries also called for international co-operation in freezing assets used for terror funding and money laundering.

He argued that special financial intelligence should be set up to boost investigation worldwide, according to the AFP press agency.

Long way from blueprints to practise

EU leaders' ambitions to work together on anti-terror measures following last year's attacks have lead to several initiatives - but these have been disrupted by disagreements on practical details or they simply have not been put into effect yet.

Police co-operation across Europe is improving only slowly, despite several achievements, such as arresting a main suspect in the Madrid bombings in June after work between several countries' police forces, according to the Financial Times.

Experts also criticise member states for taking a year to agree on the new chief of Europol, the pan-European police agency, and failing to agree the location of the new EU body to monitor its external borders.

Some countries - like Italy - have also not yet implemented a common arrest warrant which should boost cross-border searches for criminals.

And while the EU has announced several plans to strengthen co-operation on data exchange between judiciaries and police forces, the concrete steps will again be up to the individual countries with Brussels lacking real powers to punish them if they fail to deliver on their commitments.

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