EU Falters on Terrorism

By Elliott, Robert | Security Management, February 2007 | Go to article overview
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EU Falters on Terrorism

Elliott, Robert, Security Management

WHEN THE EUROPEAN UNION issued a Declaration on Combating Terrorism in 2004 in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Madrid, it promised solidarity and firm action from the 25 member states. But more than two years later, that promise remains unfulfilled, according to Paul Wilkinson, professor of International Relations and Chairman of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


In place of the hoped-for cooperation, countries have exhibited nationalistic behavior, and that behavior has impeded efforts to present a unified antiterror response, said Wilkinson--a widely respected terrorism expert--in the keynote address at the Security 2006 Exhibition and Conference in Essen, Germany.

The declaration included a seven-point strategy that called for working together "to deepen the international consensus and enhance international efforts to combat terrorism." It also called for building up the resources of appropriate European Union (EU) bodies such as the European Police Office (EUROPOL), the organized-crime-busting unit Eurojust, and the European Police Chiefs' Task Force in preparing intelligence assessments regarding all aspects of the terrorist threat.

The agreement further urged greater international cooperation among these bodies to cut off terrorist financing; to detect, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators; and to secure international transport and borders. The words have proved hollow.

"The reality is that national governments are unwilling to allow other governments' intelligence services and police anything more than a limited access to their secret intelligence on terrorism," said Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said that the subsequent collected intelligence has not been shared, but rather hoarded by national authorities. The reasons for this behavior are varied. One problem is that national governments are afraid of disclosing their sources and potentially compromising them. They do not trust other countries to keep their covert intelligence a secret, says Wilkinson. They also fear that other countries will maneuver against them based on the knowledge they gain through shared intelligence.

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