Austrian interior minister says new Al-Qa’idah network spreading like “virus”
(BBC) “I have discussed the current arrests of terror suspects with colleagues from Germany and Denmark. It turns out that a new Al-Qa’idah network is spreading all over the world like a virus,” Interior Minister Guenther Platter stated in Brussels at a council meeting of the EU justice and interior ministers.
“In addition to intensive cooperation between the EU countries, new measures are also required. We have to keep pace with the terrorists and also need powers like EU-wide online searches, but also measures against radicalization and recruitments, such as intensified integration efforts,” the interior minister said.
The EU antiterror coordinator, who is to be newly appointed, definitely has to get powers who enable him to take action. However, this does not mean that the countries would cede powers to the new antiterror chief, a spokesman of Platter stated later.
Half a year ago, antiterror coordinator Gijs de Vries resigned because he hardly had any scope of action in his job. His successor is to be a “powerful officer,” said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Especially Germany has repeatedly denied the usefulness of this EU post as it does not want to cede any security policy competences. Reportedly, Belgian Gilles de Kerchove is being mentioned for the job. A further topic of the meeting was the Schengen area in which there are no border checks within the EU. After the turn of the year, all eastern neighbours of Austria, that is, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, as well as Slovenia will take part in Schengen. By the end of 2008, also the non-members Switzerland and Liechtenstein might participate, so that there would be no more checks at Austria’s borders, Platter said. So far, especially Slovakia has been a headache for the EU as Bratislava was lagging behind in the technical implementation of the search computer network. Meanwhile, however, Slovakia has become a model pupil, it was stated.
Reduction of Austrian Army Mission
In the first nine months of 2008, the new border situation will be “evaluated”: the police and the Austrian Army will carry out dragnet searches and border area checks. For this purpose, the Austrian Army needs a new mandate, Platter said. If it turns out that the new EU’s external borders of Poland and the Baltic states are “tight,” the Austrian Army mission can be gradually reduced.
Austria will not definitely agree to the admission of new members to the Schengen area before October when a report on the technical stage of integration will be presented and if it is satisfactory. Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini considers it possible that Schengen will be enlarged before Christmas.
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