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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 10:08 GMT
Q&A: EU 'terror tsar'
European Union ministers have agreed to appoint an EU "anti-terror tsar". The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Brussels looks at Europe's future fight against terror.

French troops on patrol at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris
Security has been boosted across Europe after the Madrid bombings
Q: What will the "anti-terror tsar" do that is not being done now?

The counter-terrorism co-ordinator is expected to work under the EU's foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana, and to be answerable to the Council of Ministers - ie to the EU's national governments, not to the European Commission.

At present, different countries, and different ministries and agencies within each country, tend to take unco-ordinated action in the fight against terrorism.

The new job is an attempt to make the work more efficient by giving one official an overview and the ability to pull all the threads together.

Q: Who will hold the post?

Dutch MP Gijs de Vries has been named as the first man to hold the post. He is a centre-right politician who used to be a Dutch deputy interior minister.

Q: Will the EU be setting up new bodies to deal with the fight against terrorism?

Some countries have suggested setting up an EU intelligence agency like the CIA in the US, but there is little support for this.

Improving the sharing of intelligence is a priority, however, and to this end a "cell" may be established within existing EU security structures in Brussels.

Ministers are keen to exchange information about mobile phone logs, e-mail and internet traffic to enable investigators to follow up contacts made by suspected terrorists.

Q: Are all the EU members agreed on how to proceed?

Some, such as Britain and Sweden, believe that the important thing is to implement decisions that have already been taken, while others, such as Belgium and Austria, believe new institutions should be created, particularly for intelligence-gathering.

Belgium has problems with authorising wire-taps, which are illegal.

Germany, Sweden and Denmark are against the proposal that all countries should have minimum standards for the retention of sensitive data, such as mobile phone logs.

Britain wants such data to be held for, say, five years across Europe.

Woman lights candle for Madrid bomb victims
EU leaders will discuss security issues at a summit next week
Q: Pan-European anti-terrorist measures were agreed in the wake of 11 September, so why have these not been put into operation?

Perhaps because a certain amount of complacency had crept in, until Europe itself fell victim to a major terrorist attack.

The Madrid bombings have injected a sense of urgency, and EU leaders are likely to call for immediate and visible action at a summit they are holding next week.

Q: What were the measures?

The action plan agreed in September 2001 envisaged an EU-wide arrest warrant, to enable quick extradition of terrorist suspects.

But to this day, five countries - Austria, Italy, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands - have failed to pass this into national law.

Joint investigation teams were to be set up to trace cross-border crimes, but only nine countries have signed up for this.

Eleven countries have failed to enact a law enabling police to make cross-border requests to intercept communications and monitor bank accounts.

Three countries have not even approved the EU's common definition of terrorism.

Q: How well will the various intelligence-gathering bodies in each country work together?

Intelligence agencies are by their nature secretive, so there will never be full co-operation.

British intelligence receives information from its closest ally, the US, and in some cases it would be reluctant, or forbidden, to share that information with other countries, such as France.

But there is now a strong feeling that the work of intelligence agencies must be better co-ordinated.

Q: How likely is it that EU members will put aside their differences and work together on this issue?

Madrid has made it unavoidable.

At their summit next week, the EU's leaders will adopt a Declaration of Solidarity, pledging mutual help in the event of a terrorist attack.

The task then will be to turn the rhetoric into action.

Home secretary David Blunkett
"We don't want new institutions - we want action"


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