By Anthony Fletcher - 4th September 2007
STRASBOURG: MEPs have stressed that laws designed to fight terrorism must not take away freedoms that Europeans enjoy.
Responding to EU justice chief Franco Frattini’s Wednesday morning presentation of commission proposals to toughen up Europe’s response, ALDE group leader Graham Watson said that a proper evaluation of current measures was vital.
“We need more judicial cooperation,” said Watson. “Laws must be proportionate to threat. But since 9/11, none of these measures have been thoroughly evaluated. Parliament must be involved in this.”
Centre-right MEP Manfred Weber also warned that Europe was treading water, and that politicians were continuing to work on a national basis while terrorists were exploiting the borderless medium of the internet. “We need new impetus,” he said.
The debate in parliament took place against the backdrop of recent suspected terrorist arrests.
German authorities arrested three suspects Wednesday for allegedly plotting attacks on Frankfurt airport and a nearby American military base, while on Tuesday, Denmark’s intelligence service said that it thwarted a bomb plot and arrested eight militants with alleged links to Al-Qaeda.
Frattini’s proposals include the setting up of a European explosives database and an early warning system so that services could be informed quickly of when explosives have been stolen.
“The internet is being misused,” he told MEPs in Strasbourg. “We all know that terrorists enjoy the benefits of the internet, and also the benefit of e-learning. You can find detailed online instructions including the production of explosives on internet websites.”
The Italian commissioner added that Brussels proposes to make such behaviours punishable across the EU.
Frattini also touched on the controversial collection of passenger name records (PNR), saying that such information should be shared to protect EU citizens.
He added that it was vital to ensure that a clear legal framework was in place and that any information supplied would be treated in an appropriate manner.
“Any action must be in line with fundamental rights,” he said.
Frattini also highlighted a recent Eurobarometer survey that found a large majority – 84 per cent – of EU citizens in favour of EU action to combat terrorism.
“So let’s strengthen Europol. Our counter terrorism actions require joint action.” He told MEPs.