Germany wants EU security meeting
15 March 2004, BERLIN – Germany has called for an emergency meeting of European Union interior ministers to review the security situation in Europe in the wake of the deadly bomb attacks in Madrid.
15 March 2004
BERLIN – Germany has called for an emergency meeting of European Union interior ministers to review the security situation in Europe in the wake of the deadly bomb attacks in Madrid.
Interior Minister Otto Schily made the disclosure after a meeting of Germany's so-called security cabinet convened by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, while saying the possibility of an Islamic background to the Madrid attacks had to be taken "very seriously".
The European countries must convene to reach a common assessment of the security situation, Schily said. A request for a meeting would be sent to Ireland as the current chair of the EU Council of Ministers.
In addition to Schroeder and Schily, the German security cabinet also includes Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as well as the heads of the German federal intelligence agency BND and the federal police agency BKA.
Schily said that while looking at the possibility of a radical Islamic background to the Madrid attacks, it could still not yet be ruled out that the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible.
In his briefing with journalists, Schily expressed some dissatisfaction with the information forthcoming from Spain about Madrid's investigations into the bomb attacks.
He said the information regarding increasing doubts about the ETA's involvement had come "with a certain delay" from Madrid.
"We naturally would have preferred being informed at an earlier point about certain facts," Schily said.
The German interior minister said that despite increasing indications about an al-Qaeda connection to the Madrid attacks, he did not regard Germany's security situation as being changed. Germany itself has been named as a possible target by al-Qaeda, he noted.
But if it does become determined that al-Qaeda was behind the Madrid attacks, then it would "certainly be a new quality" regarding the terror threat facing Europe, Schily said.
But for the moment, Schily said he saw no need to suspend the "Schengen Treaty" which lifted border controls inside the EU.
The meeting of the German security cabinet tops a weekend of debate and uncertainty in Germany after the Madrid attacks, with the discussion affecting other issues, including travel and the efforts by the political parties to wrap up a deal on a new immigration law.
At the international travel fair ITB in Berlin the Madrid attacks cast a shadow on the mood as tourism companies sought to play down the effects which the terror bloodbath could have on Germans' willingness to travel abroad.
Klaus Laepple, head of the German travel operators association DRV, believed that the terror attacks would not deter people from travelling.
"People have stayed home now for several summers in a row. They want to travel now," Laepple said, referring to the severe downturn in German travel the past few years.
At the world's largest travel company TUI, a spokesman said his company, which does major business serving destinations in Spain, sees no reason to lower its business expectations this year as a result of the bomb attacks.
But the shock effect of the Madrid attacks was felt on the internal political stage in Berlin, where government and opposition parties are locked in parliamentary committee debate to try to wrap up new legislation on immigration.
Edmund Stoiber, Prime Minister of Bavaria and head of the opposition Christian Social Union party, said that security issues had to be resolved in the draft text of the immigration law, and he called for stronger powers to enable the expulsion of foreigners deemed to be dangerous, even without any judicial verdict.
In an interview in the Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag, Stoiber said that all European countries had to become effectively linked in the fight against terrorism.
"If our security interests are at stake, then the state must be able to act effectively, even without prior sentencing of suspects," Stoiber said.
But Volker Beck, a legal expert for the Greens party, the coalition partner with the Social Democrats in Berlin, warned against linking the security issue with the new immigration law debate.
Subject: German News