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EU: Brussels Launches Immigrant Integration Drive, To Monitor Communications

  • Ahto Lobjakas

The train blast in Madrid in 2004 The European Commission today weighed in on the EU debate over how to combat terrorist recruitment in Muslim communities throughout the 25-member bloc. The emphasis of the commission's message is on dialogue. But it purposely refrains from linking recent terrorist acts to Islam. The commission also proposed measures that will force telecommunications companies across the EU to retain data on all phone calls and e-mails for up to a year.

Brussels, 21 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The European Commission today rolled out its views on how to counteract the radicalization of young immigrants and terrorist recruitment.

Its views are a mix of positive measures intended to reach out to immigrant communities and punitive threats against those who abuse EU liberties to incite violence and terrorism.

It also makes certain concessions to the EU's British presidency, which has argued forcefully that some civil liberties must be scaled back for the sake of citizen safety.

None of the Commission documents made public today makes any reference to Islam or Muslim communities.

But Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice, liberty, and security, made clear that the 7 July suicide attacks in
London, carried out by disaffected Muslims, were tied to what he called the "worrying phenomenon" of growing terrorist
recruitment.

"We are extremely concerned, and our concern is growing after the terrorist attack on London when we discovered young people -- educated in London, born in the United Kingdom, with European passports -- ready to become terrorist and suicide bombers," he said. "That's why we should explore the profound roots of radicalization."

EU moves to tackle domestic terrorist recruitment and the radicalization of immigrants date back to the aftermath of the 2004 Madrid terror attacks, also attributed to radical Muslims. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for both the Madrid and the London bombings.

Frattini, however, stressed that there is a clear distinction between legitimate religious practice and violence performed in
the name of religion: "People who commit suicide bombing attacks or criminal activities on behalf of [a] religion -- the Islamic religion or another religion -- they abuse the name of this religion. Because I met many times important leaders of [the] Islamic religion, [the] Christian religion, and [the] Jewish religion, and all of them unanimously affirmed the principle that people using the name of one religion [to justify terrorist attacks] abuse the religion itself. That's why I suggested to avoid calling it 'Islamic terrorism.'"

The commissioner also noted that focusing on the "Islamic" background of the London and Madrid attacks risks stimulating what he called another "dangerous sentiment" -- that of Islamophobia.

The antiradicalization drive unveiled by Frattini focuses on ways the EU can promote integration via the Internet, TV, radio,
and other media. Frattini said the focus of the strategy will be on dialogue involving immigrant communities.

"The main purpose, the main activity we suggest, it is to improve dialogue," he said. "Improve intercultural dialogue, interfaith dialogue, and to get involved communities also through better integration strategies."

The commission also wants greater cooperation between member-state law enforcement and intelligence authorities, as well as changes in EU foreign policy to reduce factors in foreign countries that might contribute to a rise in terrorism.

Frattini today announced moves to establish pan-EU legislation to require telephone companies to retain data on
all calls for a year. Data on Internet calls and e-mails are recommended to be held for a six-month duration.

Frattini acknowledged concerns expressed by rights groups that such measures could encroach on privacy and other personal liberties. But he said an equally important liberty was what he called "the right to life."

This is a view strongly advocated by the current EU British presidency. Britain has argued that access to mobile phone
records has played a pivotal role in investigations relating to the July attacks in London.

Frattini also said the measures will be "community" legislation, rather than limited to the competence of member-
states. This means any new laws resulting from today's proposals will need the approval of the European Parliament,
which has in the past been very critical of attempts to curtail civil liberties.

EU member-states are expected to agree on a comprehensive strategy on the antiterror efforts by the end of the year.
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