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Europe: Top Cops Discuss Cooperation On Fighting Terrorism, People Smuggling

European police officials and security experts in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, today concluded a three-day regional conference. Participants discussed a range of law-enforcement and international-security issues including terrorism, human trafficking, illegal immigration, and cybercrime.

Prague, 16 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Police officers and security specialists from across Europe this week took part in a three-day conference on how best to tackle key international security issues.

The 32nd European Regional Conference of the international police organization Interpol was hosted by the Dutch city of Noordwijk and gathered representatives from all but one of the organization's 46 European member states. Observers from Japan, Israel, and the United States were also present at the conference, which ended today.

Interpol spokesman Michael Rose told RFE/RL that the conference was a useful opportunity for European policemen as well as experts and other law-enforcement officials to talk about problems they encounter with international policing and transborder crime.

Rose said that the meeting adopted a series of measures and recommendations aimed at enhancing international police cooperation. "They adopted some reports about things like people smuggling, the manufacture and distribution of synthetic drugs and so forth and essentially, they are calling for enhanced cooperation now all across Europe among police at a very difficult time for international security," he said.

One of the conference's top priorities was cooperation between European law-enforcement agencies in the fight against international terrorism.

Rose said participants assessed the progress of a special antiterrorism force to fight terrorism which was set up last year amid increasing terrorist threats throughout the world in the post-11 September 2001 environment.

"I could say that there was an extensive discussion of what is called Interpol's fusion task force," Rose said. "It's a special task force which was set up last autumn, to enhance sharing in information among police -- around the world, obviously, but in this case, the discussion would have focused more energetically on Europe -- to share information about who might be potential terrorists, to share names and so forth, of people who could be considered a potential terrorist and how these names could be shared among police and officials around the world. So the activities of the fusion task force and the way European police could take advantage of its work were certainly very high on the agenda."

Another issue which was high on the agenda of the conference was people smuggling.

An extensive report presented during the conference deals with issues such as illegal migration and women trafficking. It says that the number of illegal immigrants in Western Europe increases by 300,000-450,000 a year. It says that, with smuggled asylum seekers included, the total might be just under half a million people annually.

The document, most of which is to be kept confidential as an operational police document, was adopted by the participants. But Rose said that, more importantly, some of the report's recommendations were adopted as well.

"These were, for example, to encourage police in Europe to make more use of informants who would be able to infiltrate people-smuggling rings to make more use perhaps of witness-protection programs which would allow people to be safe after they step forward to identify people smugglers and people-smuggling rings. The recommendations were suggesting that European police consider the use of more undercover agents to infiltrate these rings and, I think, perhaps one of the most important recommendations which was adopted was a call for European police to consider, and European governments, I should say, to consider stiffer penalties for people who are involved in people smuggling. Those are really the most important recommendations from that task-force report," Rose said.

Another hot topic on the agenda was cybercrime, with a stress on fighting child pornography on the Internet. The conference discussed progress made in combating the colossal spread of child pornography in the Internet, and promoted one of its main initiatives -- the only global child-pornography database to which all 181 Interpol member states have access.

It also announced a major success by Swedish police, who with help from Interpol recently broke up a major child-pornography ring in an operation code-named Kindergarten.

Rose told RFE/RL that the issue regarding the recovery of the artifacts looted during the war in Iraq was not on the conference agenda. But he said most likely, the topic was discussed unofficially by the participants.

"But, as you know, that's a key area for the Interpol at the moment and recently [6 May] Interpol had an international conference at its general secretariat in Lyon to discuss ways in which Interpol could help find those looted items. This isn't to say that it wouldn't have been a topic informally here among officers. Of course, it would have been, but it was not on formally on the agenda," Rose said.

A U.S. draft resolution to be discussed by the UN Security Council today calls, among other things, for the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, and Interpol to help ban the trade or transfer of looted Iraqi cultural treasures.