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U.S.: EU Delegation In U.S. Discusses Counter-Terrorism Efforts

Brussels, 20 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A high-level European Union delegation is in Washington today for meetings expected to focus on counter-terrorism cooperation.

The EU officials are led by Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who represents the current rotating EU presidency, and the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. They are due to meet today with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and U.S. congressional leaders.

An EU official -- speaking on condition of anonymity -- said the meeting had been scheduled months in advance and that the EU had expected the U.S. to cancel it in light of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Yet, the official said, Powell contacted the EU to say that he wanted to proceed with the meeting.

The official said the precise agenda of the meeting is still under discussion, but that it will be dominated by counter-terrorist cooperation.

According to the official, Brussels and Washington are currently engaged in what he called "heavy negotiations," working on a joint statement that would be the first of its kind at the level of foreign ministers. The unnamed official said the EU is pushing for across-the-board cooperation to enhance security measures, improve the enforcement of existing anti-terrorist legislation, and encourage greater international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The official listed nine specific areas the EU is particularly interested in. These include the fight against the causes of terrorism, which the EU traces back to the issue of extreme deprivation in many Muslim countries. Along with measures to cut state sponsorship of terror, the EU would like to see greater help provided to states that -- in the official's words -- "suffer from terrorism."

Police and judicial cooperation -- including extradition -- are also high on the agenda today. So far, attempts by the EU and the United States to streamline their extradition procedures have failed in light of the EU's objections to the U.S. practice of capital punishment.

The unnamed official said the EU will not revise its position on the issue, even in the wake of the recent attacks. An article in today's "Financial Times," however, indicates that the EU may re-think its stance if U.S. authorities give assurance that capital punishment would not be enforced in the case of suspected terrorists.

The EU also proposes increased cooperation in denying terrorists financing and other means of support -- such as through drugs and arms trafficking. This issue is closely related with that of financial sanctions against states with banking practices that allow terrorists to launder and transfer funds.

Finally, the EU proposes increased cooperation in the fields of aviation security, border controls, law enforcement, access to and exchange of electronic data, export controls, and non-proliferation issues.

The anonymous EU official said also the EU will urge the U.S. to make better use of existing international treaties and other instruments that can be useful in the fight against terrorism. For example, the official said, a UN convention against financing terrorism exists, the implementation of which remains disputed.

He also said the EU hopes the United States will now be more favorably inclined toward attempts sponsored by the UN to limit the spread and use of small arms and light weapons.

The official said that although issues of "hard security" will find limited hearing at today's meeting, the European Commission believes the so-called "soft security" approach reflected in the list of EU concerns deserves what he called "hard attention."

The official also admitted the EU will face serious challenges while developing judicial and police cooperation with the United States, since there is, as yet, little Union-wide agreement in these fields. Most judicial cooperation within the EU has so far been tackled on a bilateral basis.

The situation, however, is changing fast. Yesterday, the European Commission unveiled proposals for a new, Europe-wide arrest warrant and a common definition of terrorism. The proposals are intended to create a new, EU-wide jurisdiction in the fight against international terrorism.

The unnamed EU official said the EU will soon take measures to allow its fledgling law-enforcement body, Europol, to develop direct contacts with U.S. agencies. Until now, Europol has had a mandate to negotiate cooperation treaties with a number of third countries, but not the United States.