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EU leaders in Brussels for terror talks

Published on 25/03/2004

25 March 2004

BRUSSELS – EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday for their regular quarterly summit meeting, with the fight against terrorism at the top of their two-day agenda.

Thursday’s meeting was subject to unprecedented security measures, following the 11 March train bombings in Madrid, which left 190 people dead.

EU leaders were set to approve a new EU plan on Thursday, which would see Union governments working together even more closely to combat the menace of terrorist attacks.

Among the new measures contained in the strategy are an agreement to bring in a new generation of EU Passports, which would include ‘biometric’ data like fingerprints and iris scans as well as plan to further increase security at the Union’s airports.

The new plan will also include a so-called ‘solidarity clause’ – a symbolic measure by which EU governments will pledge to offer any assistance necessary, including military aid, to any Union member sate that suffers a terrorist attack.

But EU leaders will stop short of agreeing to set up an EU wide intelligence agency similar to the CIA in the United States, a plan championed by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt immediately after the 11 March bomb blasts in Madrid.

Instead they are set to appoint former Dutch deputy interior minister Gijs De Vries as the Union’s ‘Mr. Terrorism’. De Vries will be tasked with co-ordinating national efforts to combat the threat of terrorist attacks.

On a separate note, analysts say European leaders could agree at the meeting to re-open negotiations on introducing an EU-wide constitution.

Talks on the issue broke down last December when Spain and Poland refused to agree to a clause in the planned text that would have reduced their EU voting rights.

But Spain’s new Prime Minster Jose Luis Zapatero has indicated that, unlike his centre-right predecessor Jose Maria Aznar, he would be prepared to give ground on the issue.

Analysts say such a move would leave the Poles isolated and many experts say Warsaw will not want to be seen as the only country opposing the new constitution, particularly as Poland has not yet joined the EU.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news