More common action needed on fighting international terrorism, says EP

Pressmeddelande   •   Feb 15, 2007 17:06 CET

MEPs think the most serious external threat to the EU lies in radical Islamic terrorist groups. They therefore call on the Council to step up the fight against such actors by agreeing on a common definition, increasing resources and power to relevant bodies such as Europol, the EU Anti-Terrorism Coordinator and the International Criminal Court.

"The most serious threat to Europe at the moment is posed by violent radical groups claiming to defend Islam, such as the criminal Al-Qaeda network and the groups which are affiliated to it or are inspired by its ideology," claims an own-initiative report by Luis Yañez-Barnuevo (PES, ES) passed by a large majority (500-53-51) by the plenary.

The report advocates a larger degree of coordination and cooperation at EU level. It "regrets the fact that [...] some Member States have not yet signed and/or ratified some of the 16 United Nations universal instruments on combating terrorism," and urges them do so. It also "calls on the Council to adopt a common position establishing a definition of terrorism," "reiterates the need to exercise effective control over various Islamic charities." At the same time, MEPs emphasised the need to "ensure that certain groups of people from various diasporas living in Europe are not stigmatised," and call for a "constructive and serious dialogue between peoples and nations, as well as between cultures, religions and civilisations."

MEPs made further recommendations for the Union's foreign policy, emphasising "the need for greater cooperation and coordination with the United States in the fight against international terrorism, while stressing the need for fundamental Human Rights principles to be protected." They also called "on countries with which the EU has commenced accession negotiations or which have expressed their intention of joining the EU to take immediate measures to disband nationalistic and fanatical organisations which are directly opposed to the democratic principles of the Union and stir up animosities and racial hatred."

Institutional recommendations

On the institutional front, the Parliament expressed its wish for "an increase in Europol's powers," "an increase in the powers and resources available to the EU Anti-Terrorism Coordinator," and the "abrogation of the unanimity rule concerning some areas of police and judicial cooperation." MEPs also stress that "the response adopted by the EU in the face of terrorism must be proportionate and properly targeted on the fight against terrorism, bearing in mind that, until proven otherwise, the most productive measures in the fight against new forms of terrorism are effective intelligence and police services."

Finally, the report "calls on the Commission and the Council, in order to make the International Criminal Court (ICC) more acceptable and realistic, to include acts of terrorism within its jurisdiction, as these constitute crimes against humanity." The EP insisted on "the need to continue defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism," since "their violation clearly jeopardises the fight against terrorism and constitutes a failure of democracy."

Reactions by the Commission and MEPs

In a debate held at the EP yesterday afternoon, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner expressed her satisfaction with the report. Nevertheless, she also suggested caution before changing the definitions of crimes against humanity at the ICC, noting that any changes to its statute might undermine efforts to broaden international support for the court.

Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL, DE) noted that his group had submitted a minority opinion to the report, as they found that it does not sufficiently address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and political injustice. He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that terrorist acts committed by states were not dealt with by the report.

The EU's role in counter-terrorism

Counter-terrorism is not an entirely new topic for the European Parliament. A few days before the 9/11 attacks in New York, MEPs had adopted a resolution containing a series of recommendations on the role of the EU in combating terrorism - among them the call for a European arrest warrant and a common definition of terrorism among Member States.

Eurojust and Europol both have important roles to play in coordinating Member States' counter-terrorism activities. All these steps are overseen by the European Union's Anti-Terrorism Coordinator, Gijs de Vries, who has recently announced that he will be stepping down in March from his post, after three years in the job. He has come under harsh criticism by MEPs for his inability to give satisfactory answers to questions by the EP's temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners.

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