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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 20:11 GMT
Laeken's anti-terror agenda
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (left) and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi
Italy agreed to the arrest warrant with just days to go
The long-held goal of "establishing a common area of freedom, justice and security" has jumped to centre stage after the events of 11 September, and the Laeken summit should take a number of steps in this direction.


A European arrest warrant will be for European justice and home affairs policy exactly as significant as the euro

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt
The most dramatic of them will be the establishment of a pan-European arrest warrant, obliging any EU country to hand over suspects of serious crimes to any other EU country without lengthy and complex extradition procedures.

The Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has hailed the move saying: "A European arrest warrant will be for European justice and home affairs policy exactly as significant as the euro will be in the economic and monetary spheres."

A common European definition of terrorism has been agreed, and the summit will approve a list of recognised terrorist organisations.

Eurojust

It will also "definitively" establish Eurojust - a body which has, in fact, already been operating informally since March, co-ordinating cross-border co-operation in investigations into crimes such as terrorism and money laundering.

Made up initially of one prosecutor from each member state, Eurojust is seen by pro-integrationists as the start of a joint European prosecution service - just as they regard Europol, which co-ordinates investigations of cross-border crime, as the first step towards a European police force.

Other moves that the Laeken Summit may approve or reaffirm include:

  • The formation of anti-terrorist task force within Europol
  • Agreed minimum penalties for certain crimes
  • Co-operation with the US in the investigation and extradition of terror suspects
  • Measures to freeze terrorists' assets and cut off their funding
  • Tough laws against money laundering - obliging any business with suspect clients to inform the police
  • A network of experts to provide help in case of nuclear, biological or chemical emergency
  • A surveillance and control network for transmissible disease
  • Improved airport and airline security
  • Political dialogue with those countries and regions of the world where terrorism comes into being

Although Italy's objections to the pan-European arrest warrant were overcome at the last minute, obstacles could still lie ahead. It will have to be ratified by all member states, and some of them will first have to alter their constitutions.

See also:

11 Dec 01 | Europe
Italy U-turn on arrest warrant
05 Dec 01 | Europe
Greece threatens EU defence deal
18 Jun 01 | Europe
Analysis: Gothenburg's legacy
30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
European Union
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