EU ministers agree on new anti-terrorism chief
20 September 2007
Brussels (dpa) – EU government ministers have agreed to appoint a new anti-terrorism coordinator tasked with improving cooperation with EU institutions and among member states in a concerted bid to thwart further terrorist attacks on the 27-member bloc, sources in Brussels said.
The appointment, whose official announcement was said to be “imminent”, was set to end six months of disagreements over the exact scope and nature of the job.
According to information obtained by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, the new coordinator will be Gilles de Kerchove d'Ousselghem, a high- ranking Belgian bureaucrat working for the EU's Justice and Home Affairs directorate.
Speaking at the start of a council meeting of EU justice and home affairs minister, Portuguese Interior Minister Rui Pereira said ministers had agreed on “the profile, remit and powers of the anti- terrorism coordinator” and that he had briefed Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief who is ultimately responsible for making the appointment.
“We concluded that (he) should have a largely technical profile, and that he should be particularly concerned with pooling resources between member states and ensuring smooth cooperation between all EU institutions,” Pereira later told reporters.
Franco Frattini, the EU Commissioner in charge of terrorism- related issues, told dpa there had been almost unanimous agreement among ministers that the new coordinator should be a bureaucrat with established knowledge about the inner workings of the EU, rather than a politician.
A former top official in the Belgian government, de Kerchove has been director of the Justice and Home Affairs General Directorate in the General Secretariat of the EU Council in Brussels since 1995.
The post of anti-terrorism coordinator was created in 2004 in response to that year's train bombings in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people. It has been left vacant since March, when Gijs de Vries of the Netherlands resigned citing personal reasons.
Disagreements over the exact scope of the job are believed to have prompted de Vries to quit and for his replacement to be delayed.
Jack Straw, Britain's Secretary of State for Justice, said the EU should make sure “criminals and terrorists can be identified and caught very rapidly” while ensuring that “law-abiding European citizens feel comfortable about the information that is being shared and the protection that is being offered.”
Britain was particularly keen for the new anti-terrorism coordinator to enjoy greater powers.
Addressing reporters at the start of Tuesday's meeting, Solana said de Vries's successor should have a “deeper” mandate and enjoy “a much closer relationship” with EU governments and institutions.
“Circumstances have changed since the first mandate was agreed. We have learned during this period and it is for intelligent people to adapt to the new circumstances,” Solana said.
EU officials cited recent arrests in Germany, Denmark and Austria as evidence that the threat of a terrorist attack in the continent remains high.
On July 7, 2005 a series of coordinated terrorist bomb blasts hit London's transport system, killing 52 computers and four suicide bombers. In the summer of 2006, the British police claimed to have foiled a terrorist attack against US-bound aeroplanes using liquid explosives.
In their council meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU's interior and justice ministers also discussed the latest progress on the open- border Schengen agreement and on ways of improving the union's fight against illegal immigration.
Subject: German news