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Schroeder vows tough EUresponse to terror threat

19 March 2004

BERLIN – European Union leaders will agree tough anti-terror measures at their summit next week in response to the Madrid train bombings, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Friday.

“The attacks in Spain show we live in an area facing common threats,” said Schroeder in a speech opening Berlin’s Federal Academy for Security Policy.

European Union interior ministers were meeting Friday in Brussels to hammer out a package expected to include the naming of a anti-terrorism “czar” for the soon-to-be 25-nation bloc.

The new EU “security czar” will work under EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana and therefore be directly accountable to European governments.

An earlier suggestion that the coordination task should be left to a member of the European Commission – the EU executive agency – was rejected by governments, unwilling to cede more authority to Brussels.

The formal decision on nominating the security coordinator will be taken by EU leaders at a meeting in Brussels on 26 and 26 March.

Schroeder said EU member state security officials would have to work far more closely together in the future.

But he warned the public could not expect total security: “Those who believe there can be absolute safety against terrorist attacks are misguided.”

Schroeder will also attend next week’s memorial service in Spain for the victims of the Madrid train bombings.

The ceremony in Madrid’s cathedral on March 24 is due to be attended by many heads of state and government.

Schroeder is expected to have his first talks with Spanish prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on the fringes of the ceremony.

In his comments Friday, Schroeder underlined that terrorism could not be defeated by military force alone and called for measures to counter financing, arms supply and support for terrorists.

So-called “soft power”, including crisis prevention, defusing conflicts as well as diplomatic, legal, development aid and economic levers were also part of the arsenal in the war on terror, Schroeder noted.

The battle against terror can only be won on a multilateral basis with Europe, the transatlantic alliance and the United Nations all pulling together, he argued.

Schroeder stressed that Germany viewed the use of military force only as a last resort and could never take the decision to deploy combat troops lightly.

“This corresponds with a tradition since World War II and with the views of partners which experienced terrible things at the hands of Germany in the last century,” Schroeder said.

The Chancellor, who strongly opposed the Iraq war, did not directly mention Iraq in his speech.

But he underlined there were cases when not going to war “was an expression of responsible policy-making.”

Europe’s tradition of not swiftly resorting to armed force had nothing to do with a lack of courage, said Schroeder, adding that Germany currently has 8,000 troops serving in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Horn of Africa.

Nevertheless, Schroeder – in a follow-up to a successful fence-mending visit to the White House last month – made his strongest appeal for German-American ties since last year’s bitter split between Berlin and Washington over the Iraq war.

“The close relations with our American friends are based on a common set of values,” said Schroeder, adding: “They are freedom, democracy, the rule of law and the commitment to free markets.”

The German leader added that all this was far more important than differences over individual questions.

“Together with the US and our other alliance partners we are using this basis in efforts for a secure and just world,” said Schroeder who stressed that NATO remained Germany’s key security pillar.

Separately, German Interior Minister Otto Schily urged the creation of an EU anti-terror information network to obtain a clearer picture of the security threats facing the bloc.

However, Schily added recent calls for a CIA-style European intelligence agency made by Belgium and Austria went too far.

Instead, EU governments should establish a network allowing the bloc,s police services and internal and external intelligence agencies to coordinate and compare information on terrorist threats, he said.

The focus would be on obtaining a clear picture of the potential threats facing Europe, Schily insisted, adding: “We have to shed light on possible terrorist networks in Europe.”

Diplomats said EU leaders would probably sign a special “solidarity declaration” vowing automatic help for each other in case of terrorist attacks.

The European Commission is urging EU governments to start implementing the counter-terror policies they adopted in the aftermath of the 11 September terror attacks on New York in 2001.

The commission also urged more anti-terror cooperation with foreign nations and said all EU cooperation agreements should include provisions for joint action to fight global terrorism.

The EU executive said it would insert a so-called “anti- terrorism clause” in all future cooperation agreements signed with foreign governments.


Subject: German News