Accessibility links

EU: Ministers Express Total Support, Declare Day Of Mourning

European Union foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Brussels yesterday to discuss the terrorist attacks against the United States. Ministers expressed their horror at the events and promised the United States any support that might be needed. They also called for an integrated international approach to combat the scourge of terrorism.

Brussels, 13 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- European Union foreign ministers have declared 14 September a day of mourning across the continent in memory of the victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The foreign ministers are asking all Europeans -- the 15-nation EU together with candidate countries -- to observe three minutes of silence at midday (CET).

In an extraordinary meeting yesterday, the EU ministers strongly condemned the attacks and expressed their complete solidarity with the government of the United States and with the American people.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel -- speaking on behalf of the European Union's current Belgian presidency --- read out the text of a declaration adopted at the meeting. Michel said, in part:

"These horrendous acts are an attack not only on the United States but against humanity itself and the values and freedoms we share. The life and work of our open and democratic societies will continue undeterred."

The declaration goes on to say that the EU together with its 15 member states will "spare no effort to help identify, bring to justice and punish those responsible. There will be no safe haven for terrorists and their sponsors."

According to the declaration, the EU has offered the United States "all possible assistance" with search and rescue operations. Discussions are underway to determine what kind of help would be most useful.

The declaration also says that the EU will work closely with the United States to combat terrorism. It says that all international organizations, particularly the United Nations, must be engaged.

Some observers have suggested that these formulations fall short of an unqualified endorsement of all and any measures the United States might deem necessary to take against the perpetrators of the attacks.

At a press conference after the ministers' meeting, neither Louis Michel nor the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, or External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten accepted questions, citing pressing engagements. However, before leaving Brussels for London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he thought the United States would be "content and happy" with the document. Straw added that issues of military action were matters for NATO and not the EU.

NATO's highest decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, also met yesterday in Brussels. After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson announced that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. are being viewed as an "armed attack" against the entire alliance.

NATO -- for the first time -- invoked Article Five of its founding 1949 treaty, which states that an attack on one country is an attack on all members of the alliance. The Cold War-era declaration commits each member nation to assist the attacked nation in taking whatever action is necessary to maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Lord Robertson said the action includes armed force, but no immediate military action was planned.