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EU Ministers Agree to Boost Anti-Terrorism Fight


Charles Clarke
European Union justice and interior ministers have vowed to step up the bloc's fight against terrorism by implementing measures they agreed on last year after the Madrid train bombings. But, at least one measure proposed by the ministers is certain to run into opposition by civil liberties advocates.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who chaired the meeting, says he and his colleagues committed themselves to implementing a series of steps designed to fight terrorism by the end of this year.

Appearing at a news conference with EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, Mr. Clarke said last week's London bombings made it urgent to put the measures into effect.

"We had an extremely good discussion this afternoon which agreed, I think, a very strong statement to say that all of us across the European Union are absolutely determined to accelerate our work to make terrorism more difficult," he said. "It focuses around a wide range of different exchanges of data and information, whether on stolen explosives, on communications data, on operational cooperation between different forces. And I think Franco would agree there was a determination for all our countries to say we cannot delay getting this right."

Mr. Frattini said he would "name and shame EU member states that do not quickly implement the measures."

After the Madrid bombings in March 2004, EU ministers laid out detailed plans to combat terrorism. But some countries have delayed putting some measures into effect.

British diplomats say intelligence sharing among national security organizations is the main emphasis of the new agreement. Police and security services in many countries are often reluctant to share information with their EU counterparts for fears of compromising sources or investigations.

The ministers also agreed to draw up an EU-wide strategy to prevent the radicalization and recruitment of young European Muslims into terrorist groups. And they said they would streamline the sharing of evidence to be used in court cases across the 25-nation bloc.

One new measure that Britain has forcefully argued for is a uniform pan-European law that would require telephone and internet companies to log the time and location of phone calls and e-mails. But civil rights groups are fearful that such a law would compromise civil liberties. Mr. Frattini says he will draw up a proposal by September that balances data retention with protection of individual privacy.