An emergency summit of European Union leaders Friday in Brussels is expected to rally behind the United States' campaign against terrorism, approve new anti-terrorism measures within the 15 member bloc and try to calm fear and uncertainty on European financial markets. The summit takes place a day after EU justice and interior ministers approved bold anti-terrorism moves and tighter cooperation between EU and U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Unprecedented security measures have been put into effect around EU headquarters in the Belgian capital. Police have sealed off the surrounding neighborhood. They have closed nearby rail and subway stations, and they have banned airliners from flying over the city during the summit.
The summit was called by Belgium, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, to reaffirm solidarity with the United States, following last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But EU leaders also want to make it clear to their own nations that they are determined to implement what Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt calls "a real European policy of fighting terrorism."
The leaders also want to calm financial markets, which are reeling following the attacks against the United States. There are fears on European markets that a global recession is imminent. And they are coupled with widespread uncertainty about the impact a U.S. military retaliation against suspected terrorists may have on the world economy.
EU finance ministers are meeting separately Friday and Saturday in the Belgian city of Liege to assess the damage to the world financial system caused by the terrorist attacks. They are especially concerned about the immediate impact on such sectors as airlines, insurance and tourism.
On Thursday, EU interior and justice ministers approved new anti-terrorism measures that include a Europe-wide arrest warrant and streamlined extradition procedures. Addressing the concerns of human rights groups that the new measures may be too stringent, British Home Secretary David Blunkett says there is a need to balance the rights of the individual with the protection of society as a whole. "We can't allow terrorists to exploit our freedom, to exploit our democracy, and then destroy it," he said. "But we can't allow them either to provoke us into a situation where we so tighten our laws that we actually remove those very freedoms that we built up over the last 200 years."
The EU leaders are expected to endorse the new measures.
But the main thrust of the meeting will be to express support for the United States, despite the wariness of some European countries about potential U.S. military retaliation against suspected terrorists and their backers.
French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will brief their colleagues on Washington's plans for anti-terrorist action following their discussions this week with President Bush. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who was also in Washington this week, says he is certain that any U.S. military response will be proportionate and aimed only at those directly responsible for the attacks on Washington and New York.