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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 22:17 GMT
EU to appoint anti-terror 'tsar'
Policeman stands by one of the Madrid trains that was bombed
Concern over European security is high after the Madrid bombings
European Union ministers have agreed to appoint a single official to co-ordinate the anti-terrorism work of member states.

They have also asked the EU's foreign policy and security chief, Javier Solana, to draw up proposals on how to improve the sharing of intelligence.

However, a proposal to create an EU-wide intelligence agency was rejected.

The ministers were in Brussels to discuss the EU's response to the Madrid bombings which killed over 200 people.

'Massive new threat'

We were very anxious today in our discussion to be realistic
Michael McDowell
Irish Interior Minister

The anti-terrorism "tsar" will work under the EU's security chief, Javier Solana, pulling together all the measures being taken in the security field by ministers of transport, justice, foreign affairs and finance.

However, the Irish Interior Minister, Michael McDowell, who chaired the talks, conceded that national intelligence agencies could not be expected to share all of their secrets.

"There is a trade off in all our dealings between confidentiality and security and the sense of trust between the security services and the various states on one hand and the sharing of information on the other," Mr McDowell said.

"We were very anxious today in our discussion to be realistic about this," he added.

The proposals will be put to a summit meeting of EU leaders next week.

Similar emergency meetings - of home affairs ministers and then EU leaders - were held in the wake of the 11 September attacks in 2001.

A number of measures were agreed then - such as an EU-wide arrest warrant, joint investigative teams, and better intelligence sharing.

But, says the BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Brussels, not a great deal happened in practical terms, and the attacks in Madrid spurred EU governments to try again to co-ordinate their fight against terrorism.

Resistance to change

"We do not need new magic solutions as far as legislation is concerned," said European commissioner Antonio Vittorino after today's meeting.

"The fundamentals of the legislation that we need at a European level are on the table. Now we should focus on its effective implementation," he added.

Arriving for the talks, British Home Secretary David Blunkett was adamant that there was no need for new institutions, such as the proposed "European CIA".

"We want action on those measures which have already been agreed upon," British Home Secretary David Blunkett told reporters.

Justice and home affairs are areas of EU politics that are notoriously hard to co-ordinate, our correspondent says.

Intelligence agencies in particular are by their nature secretive and unhappy about sharing information.

For example, Germany was incensed by Spain's initial refusal to divulge information about the kind of explosives used in last week's attacks.

The EU's interior ministers tend to be reluctant to give up their national powers.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Several key counter-terrorism measures were put forward"


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