EU ministers meet amid new terror alerts

The European Union’s foreign and defence ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the fight against terrorism, in the aftermath of the suicide bomb attacks in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

    EU interior ministers relax after
    talks on how to secure the
    continent from attacks

    With recent international events set to dominate the agenda, representatives will discuss setting up a European Union database listing each member state's civil protection capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack.


    Rapid reaction force

    Hinging on the EU’s first ever peacekeeping operation in Macedonia, discussions are also set to take place on a continent-wide military force.


    Defence ministers from the bloc were to declare a 60,000-strong rapid reaction force ready for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, four years after the idea was launched as the centrepiece of efforts to forge an EU military wing.


    The force keeps the EU on track to make good on an offer to take over NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, which currently involves 17,000 troops.


    "Operation Concordia" in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has been the first example of an EU policing mission in Bosnia that has displayed the EU's new found ability to pull together. The EU was criticised during the two Clinton administrations for having failed to act in the Bosnia and Kosovo crises of the Nineties.


    However, the ministers are expected to acknowledge continued shortfalls in their military capacity and equipment and call for intensified work to build up special forces, air transport, theatre missile defence and a range of other capabilities.


    Points of discussion

    The foreign ministers will tackle a range of pressing external relations issues:

    Increasing co-operation with the Russians in areas ranging from fighting crime and illegal immigration to cleaning up nuclear waste, ahead of a summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on 31 May

  • Maintaining emphasis on the road map peace plan - drawn up with the United States, Russia and the United Nations - in the aftermath of the double human bombing in annexed East Jerusalem yesterday 

  • Deciding on a common stance on Iraq even as sensitive negotiations are underway at the United Nations in New York on US proposals to end 14 years of sanctions

  • ‘Terror’ panel set up

    The Spanish foreign minister

    On Sunday, five western European interior ministers, meeting in the aftermath of the anti-Western bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, agreed to set up a permanent panel of experts on terrorism.


    The panel - decided upon in an attempt to boost anti-terror measures such as intelligence-sharing - is made up of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. They agreed that the body will "oversee policy decisions in the five states and push for their EU-wide adoption,” The Spanish Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, said.


    The five interior ministers also agreed to meet every three months to "study the evolution of the problem of terrorism within each country and throughout the European Union," Acebes told reporters.


    "There can be no borders in the fight against terrorism, either for police officers or for judges," he said.


    The French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy noted that some European countries had already been targeted.


    "What is true for the past can be true in the future and I think we should not give the impression that we are taking this threat lightly," he added.


    At today’s talks in Brussels, the foreign and defence ministers were scheduled to discuss setting up a EU database listing each member state's civil protection capabilities in the event of terrorist attack.


    The discussions are all the more pressing after the Casablanca attacks on Friday, which left 41 people dead and raised fears of a resurgence in international terrorism.


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