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EU: Anniversary Of 11 September Attacks Commemorated

  • Ahto Lobjakas

European Union institutions held commemorative gatherings today in a display of sympathy with the United States a year after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington. EU leaders said they would stand "side by side" with the United States in the fight against terrorism. However, some EU politicians also called for the fight to move beyond military force and address some of the root causes of terrorism, like poverty and discrimination.

Brussels, 11 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- European Union institutions today held commemorative ceremonies and observed a minute of silence to mark the first anniversary of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States.

Chairing a gathering of EU politicians at the European Parliament today, Pat Cox, the parliament's Irish president, said the attacks were a denial of common values and principles shared by the entire "civilized world." "That day's legacy has been marked by a new sense of vulnerability, most acutely felt and experienced in the United States itself, but shared by all freedom-loving peoples. September 11 reminds us that freedom, democracy, and security never can be taken for granted, but constantly must be defended with resolve," Cox said.

Cox went on to quote a declaration adopted earlier today by himself and EU heads of state and government -- and endorsed by the candidate countries -- that notes the attacks of 11 September have given rise to the "most comprehensive international cooperation in decades."

The declaration says the EU is determined to fight terrorism "through steadfast international cooperation," standing side by side with the U.S. It adds that perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism will be brought to justice and punished.

The declaration says the EU "will not slacken its resolve" to fight international terrorism

But Cox, in reading the declaration, also emphasized the need to move beyond military measures to a "dialogue of cultures" to eradicate the root causes of terrorism. "This solidarity by the European Union and its member states with the United States in combating terrorism has been freely given in a common, democratic cause and it must be sustained. Also, it must be supported by a dialogue of cultures to ensure that there is no facile equation of fanaticism with religion," Cox said.

This point was made with greater force today by Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, speaking at the same ceremony at the European Parliament. He said the fight against terrorism entails not only the use of force, but looking for "the causes" and remedying the "ills, wherever they are found."

Defeating terrorism, Prodi said, means defeating poverty and fighting discrimination and exclusion all over the world with the eventual goal of "bringing down the wall dividing [the rich] North and [the poorer] South."

Prodi said the EU would play "the leading role" in the global fight for peace, justice, and solidarity. But he also stressed the importance of the EU and the U.S. continuing to work together. "The U.S. has always helped Europe in the dark moments of history. We have to go on working with the United States against terrorism, we must get rid of terrorists," Prodi said. "Now we have to learn to work together in the daily fight against terrorism and to understand that this is a common destiny. We cannot divide Europe from the United States."

Anna Diamatopoulou, the EU's social-affairs commissioner, noted in a speech today that the aftermath of the 11 September attacks had made "fighting discrimination and promoting tolerance in the EU more difficult."

She said some politicians in the EU have exploited public fears to spread xenophobia and racism directed against Muslims, Jews, and immigrants. Diamatopoulou warned that the civil liberties of EU citizens are also "being swept aside in the name of the fight against terrorism."

In a parallel commemoration in Brussels today, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the antiterrorism coalition had achieved "a huge amount." The main achievement, he said, is that "instead of a clash of civilizations, the whole world [is] united against a common threat as never before."

Robertson said NATO had been "at the core" of the campaign against terrorism during the past year, lending its surveillance planes to defend U.S. airspace, dispatching a fleet to the eastern Mediterranean and conducting antiterrorist operations in the Balkans.

Robertson also noted that the first-ever invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in support of the United States was the "strongest possible expression of trans-Atlantic solidarity" by the allies with the United States. The article states that an attack on any one alliance member is considered an attack on all members.

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