sexta-feira, março 12, 2004

Do International Herald Tribune: E a Europol?

In a year when Greece will act as host to the summer Olympic Games, the bombings on Thursday in Madrid will be a test of pan-European police cooperation in the face of terrorist threats, experts said. Until now Europe-wide cooperation in the fight against terrorism has often been ad-hoc, according to the police. Police officials have preferred to contact one another bilaterally rather than passing through institutions of the European Union.

When European officials, including the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, were targeted with packages containing explosive devices in December and January, Italian, Dutch, Belgian and other police forces worked outside the established structures of pan-European police cooperation.

Europol, a police agency established by the EU in the 1990s, was not put on the case, despite the fact that Europol’s director, Jurgen Storbeck, was one of the recipients of an explosive package.

Europol, which was established to fight terrorism and other cross-border crime, has about 500 employees.

Under its current status, Europol cannot begin an investigation unless national authorities in EU countries request it.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, less than 12 hours after the deadly terrorist attack in Spain, most of the staff at Europol had gone home.

‘‘No one is in their offices,’’ said a receptionist who answered the phone at the agency’s headquarters in the Hague.

Storbeck was in Rome for talks with an Italian parliamentary committee. He said the Madrid bombings did not ‘‘correspond to the modus operandi’’ of the Basque separatist group ETA, according to Agence France-Presse.

‘‘ETA has always committed attacks targeted at particular people and if there was a danger to the public at large, they gave a warning,’’ Storbeck said, without elaborating on what role Europol could play in the investigating the attacks.

The question of pan-European cooperation on terrorist matters is key for the European Union. Since the mid-1990s, European governments have abolished border checks but borders still remain for police. Police in most situations do not have the power to pursue and arrest suspects across national boundaries.

Following the bombings in Madrid, Spain has the option to suspend the Schengen accords, which allow for the open borders.

Pietro Petrucci, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, said he had not received notification of any intention to reimpose border controls.

Petrucci said the Schengen accords had been suspended in Italy several years ago during a meeting of the Group of 7 industrial countries and more recently at the Spanish border with the British enclave of Gibraltar when many passengers on a cruise ship fell ill. Greek officials have debated whether to reimpose passport checks during the August Olympic Games, but have not yet reached a decision, according to officials in Athens.

On Thursday a number of European governments announced extra security measures following the Madrid bombings.

France raised its terror alert, according to a statement by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s office. France moved from yellow alert status to orange, the second level in the four-level system.

‘‘A number of measures will therefore be implemented, including the reinforcement of police forces with the military, to increase security on public transport in particular,’’ the statement said.

Border police forces tightened security between France and Spain, the Associated Press reported.

Police officers stopped people on foot and searched cars and other vehicles, the AP said. At the Biriatou border crossing, heavy trucks were stopped for security checks. There is no link between the Madrid bombings and the recent threats to bomb railway lines by the shadowy group known as AZF in France, France 2 television news said, quoting officials.

In Greece, which recently requested help from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to secure the summer Olympics, security was tightened on railway lines.

‘‘The Transport and Public Works Ministry is increasing security measures with immediate effect until further notice on all the country’s railway and metro networks following the bomb attack in Madrid,’’ a ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Swiss International Air Lines is adjusting security measures following the Madrid bombings, a company spokesman Jean-Claude Donzel told Bloomberg News.

And the Belgian government is taking more measures ‘‘to safeguard Spanish diplomatic interests in Belgium,’’ Peter Mertens, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told the news organization.

Como combater entao actos terroristas organizados? Ou julgava-se que o terrorismo, como muitos faziam crer, nao era um problema europeu e portanto uma atitude preventiva era desnecessaria? Ao surgir uma terceira tese que aponta para a colaboraçao entre a ETA e grupos arabes radicais, nao sera' urgente uma resposta baseada em serviços de informaçoes e cooperaçao internacional? Como adequar uma resposta eficaz ao terrorismo sem entrar, passo a redundancia, numa histeria securitaria?