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EU's anti-terror chief keeps complaining

Posted by Helen Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gijs de Vries, the former Dutch Minister of Interior and now the EU’s first co-ordinator of anti-terrorist measures, is having a hard time. Apparently the co-ordination is not happening fast enough for his liking.

According to an interview in the Financial Times, “Mr de Vries has run into delays and turf wars among member states”. His appointment came in the wake of last March’s bombing on the Madrid underground and he has been speaking out and complaining ahead of the anniversary.

It seems that the police forces of the various countries prefer to keep control over their own criminal and anti-terrorist investigations, a situation that is surely preferable to constant international conferences and discussions, which is what co-ordination is about.

He is frustrated by the fact that there is not one union-wide organization to deal with these matters, unlike the situation in the United States where there is “the … CIA, FBI or Homeland Security department”. That is, of course, three organizations, that have turf wars of their own but the thought does not cheer Mr de Vries. He wants an organization of his own as it seems impossible that police forces might be able to co-ordinate their activity otherwise.

He has also called on all the member states to step up preparations against all sorts of attacks, chemical, nuclear and biological. Sensible enough, though it is hard to tell whether Mr de Vries knows what the various countries are doing about it. All he knows is that they are not telling him.

He has also called on the member states to combat terror financing. Now, that is an interesting idea, because it is already possible to deal with that through the existing legislation. But the EU has to start by acknowledging that certain organizations, such as Hamas is a terrorist one.

In other words, it is not co-ordination that is needed but political will and not the constant desire to oppose whatever the United States wants.

An interesting question does arise in the wake of all this complaining. What is the purpose of the anti-terror co-ordination chief, given that we have the EU Arrest Warrant and the forthcoming EU Evidence Warrant with their thirty-two ill-defined crimes and misdemeanours, not to mention Europol, which is set to become an operational force and Eurojust and, indeed, the entire paraphernalia of Tampere I and Tampere II, all there to create a single area of freedom, justice and security?