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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
EU must act fast on terror - Blunkett
David Blunkett (right) with French Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant (left) and German Interior Minister Otto Schily
David Blunkett says the EU must "get on with" action
Home Secretary David Blunkett has urged the European Union to get on with introducing a raft of new counter-terrorism measures as quickly as possible.

Following a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels, Mr Blunkett said the UK and others but "some countries were more cautious than others".

There is nothing to fear from co-operation, there is everything to fear from allowing the terrorists to exploit our democracy

David Blunkett
While there has been agreement on the thrust of the plans, one of the sticking points is the attempt to introduce an EU-wide arrest warrant that would dispense with traditional extradition procedures.

While Mr Blunkett said some countries are wary of the plans, he insisted all the states concerned were free and democratic and so should be able to trust each other's policing systems.

Mr Blunkett was speaking after EU justice and home affairs ministers endorsed tighter laws on terrorism, which were unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday.

Speed needed

"I have been pressing, along with the German and Spanish ministers, that we need to move quickly, not to have reports back in December," he told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme.

He said some countries were very concerned about the idea of mutual recognition of justice procedures across national boundaries, especially as the definitions of offences varied.

Mr Blunkett said: "I'm hoping that the European Commission will be able to persuade those who are reluctant and fearful that there is nothing to fear from co-operation, there is everything to fear from allowing the terrorists to exploit our democracy."

The home secretary will be hoping for progress before he meets his European counterparts next week.

Terrorism defined

A proposed directive on terrorism will for the first time define what is a terrorist act - at present only four of the 15 EU states - (the UK, Spain, France and Portugal) have such definitions.

Similar sentencing levels for terrorist convictions are also proposed - suggesting the penalty for murder should be at least 20 years jail, with 15 years the minimum for causing "bodily injuries".
Antoine Duquesne, Belgium Interior Minister
Duquesne stressed EU determination

The plans say the first priority should be immediately setting up a "mechanism for joint assessments of the short-term terrorist threat".

That may involve changes to Europol - Europe's intelligence gathering operations.

Mr Blunkett told reporters: "We've got to involve American intelligence networks in the beefed-up work of Europol inside the EU."

He stressed, however, the importance of maintaining the "delicate balance" between keeping freedoms while at the same time protecting those liberties.

Anti-terrorism experts from all the member states are set to form a group to finalise the exact terms of the EU Commission's counter-terrorism proposals.

Emergency summit

The whole issue and the plans agreed by the home affairs ministers is also likely to go before an emergency summit of EU leaders on Friday.

Antoine Duquesne, Interior Minister of Belgium, which currently holds the EU presidency, said: "I think our state of mind today is a mix of indignation, compassion and determination.

"The tragedy facing the United States today -- the abominable act that strikes at the most basic values of democracy -- must reinforce our conviction that terrorism constitutes a major challenge to the security of all of our states and societies."

It is thought that most of the measures will be turned into national laws in each of the 15 EU states some time next year.

See also:

20 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair holds terror talks with Chirac
19 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett sorry for asylum 'fiasco'
19 Sep 01 | UK
UK to monitor Islamic group
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