European Union justice and interior ministers have agreed to strengthen their anti-terrorist activities and to name a counter-terrorism coordinator in the wake of the bombings in Spain last week that killed more than 200 people.
During an emergency meeting in Brussels, the ministers pledged to boost the European police agency, EUROPOL, and to name an anti-terrorism official to assess how much governments are doing to prevent terror attacks. They also backed in principle a plan to establish a unit to exchange intelligence between member states, and reviewed proposals to set up a European terrorism database.
Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell, whose country holds the EU presidency, says the meeting sends a strong message of European solidarity.
"Our purpose," he said, "is to demonstrate that the terrorists will not succeed in overturning the hard-won liberties that light the way for all the nations of the Union, and which make us masters of our own destiny and in many respects the envy of the world."
EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino stressed the need for European unity. "We are all equally targeted by the terrorist threat," he said, "and we need to state clearly our political solidarity in front of this global threat."
Mr. Vitorino said the EU does not need new laws and institutions to fight terrorism, but should have effective implementation of existing measures. What the EU needs, said British Home Secretary David Blunkett, is hard, practical action.
The European Commission has criticized some member states for being slow in implementing existing anti-terror measures.
The measures agreed to by the ministers in principle Friday will be reviewed by the leaders of EU governments at a summit scheduled for next week.