EU bands together as antiterrorism battle stepped up
By ALAN FREEMAN, The Globe and Mail
Friday, September 21, 2001
LONDON -- With their experience at fighting everything from Basque and Corsican separatists to the Irish Republican Army, European governments have long known the importance of co-operating in the battle against terrorism.
Now, in the wake of last week's devastating attacks in the United States, the 15 member nations of the European Union have adopted tough new measures aimed at making it easier to arrest and extradite suspected terrorists.
At a special meeting in Brussels yesterday, European justice ministers approved 37 proposals, including a common EU search-and-arrest warrant that means a terror suspect wanted in one country can be pursued in all 15.
In addition, new extradition procedures will mean a suspect arrested in one EU nation will be automatically handed over to authorities in another.
Other measures include a shared definition of terrorist crimes and special guidelines for sentencing, with a minimum penalty of 20 years for terrorist killings.
Currently, only six of the 15 EU members have specific legislation on terrorism.
The ministers also agreed to strengthen links between police in EU nations and the United States.
"The people we are dealing with are sophisticated, well-organized and entirely ruthless . . . but they are also in a position to exploit the very freedoms we seek to protect," said British Home Secretary David Blunkett, who insisted that the fight against terrorism would still allow for the protection of individual rights.
The counterterrorism measures have been under consideration for some time, but adoption was advanced by the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The proposals are likely to be approved by EU leaders at a special antiterrorism summit to be held in Brussels today.
Under the proposals, a terrorist group is defined as a "structure organization established over a period of time, of more than two persons, acting in concert to commit terrorist offences."