Need more than military optionAn intelligent war on terror [Archives:2004/791/Opinion]

November 18 2004

By Javier Solana
Terrorism is an existential threat. In our European Security Strategy, it was deemed one of the key strategic threats facing the European Union, and to fight it we are using all instruments at our disposal, particularly in the intelligence area.
The first objective of intelligence is to find terrorists, prevent them from acting, and track them after they do attack. This is the kind of operational intelligence that is best done at the national level. Many arrests and disruptions of terrorist operations in Europe result from cooperation between EU members' intelligence services.
I was recently asked by journalists whether inter-agency cooperation is sufficient and whether European mechanisms for sharing operational intelligence should be created. Later that very day, a joint operation resulted in simultaneous arrests in five European countries.
The operation's success was no accident. Last year, the Union concluded two Europol agreements, as well as an Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement. Europe's security services are working closely together within the Counter-Terrorist Group, and Europol's Counter-Terrorist Task Force has been re-established. A high-level group on border and transport security is at work, and links between member states' police chiefs are strengthening.
But widespread sharing is not always needed or appropriate. Member states also need intelligence derived from ongoing casework, not to inform policy, at least not directly, but to disrupt and dismantle networks and prevent attacks. This information is in many ways more sensitive, and services share it on a “need to know” basis, not for the sake of promoting cooperation.
I see another role for intelligence: to inform political action. Intelligence services can educate the public, explaining the origins of the alienation that underpins terrorism, how radicalization and recruitment occur, and highlight terrorists' goals, methods, and targeting strategies. Only when we understand this can we develop appropriate and concrete policies.
For this we need good strategic assessments of intelligence. The EU's members have structures to provide this, and with their support and input we are building structures at a Europe-wide level, to bring this information to EU policymakers. Europol is performing a similar function with material derived from police work, and we are working to ensure synergy between these two efforts. This is a different level of intelligence, more analytical, where close collaboration adds significant value.
In the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, the EU focused on internal aspects of the fight against terrorism. But this does not mean that the Union has become introverted. On the contrary, the EU regards international cooperation as fundamental in the fight against terrorism.
Generally, counter-terrorism is very high on our international agenda and is becoming better integrated into the Union's political dialogue with other countries. We are better targeting our external assistance and capacity building programs, and we are ready to use our trade and economic muscle, when necessary, by demanding counter-terrorism clauses in bilateral treaties.
There has also been a sea change in transatlantic cooperation between the EU and the US. Deeds speak louder than words, and deeds on the transatlantic level have been swift and decisive – for example, joint efforts aimed at choking off terrorist financing – even when we had strong divergences over Iraq.
Still, I am not complacent. To facilitate the extremely complex task of counter-terrorism policymaking in the EU, we now have a Plan of Action, approved by the European Council, which clearly specifies who does what, and by when. This will also help national parliaments understand EU objectives and facilitate their legislative planning. I have recently appointed a counter-terrorism coordinator to assist me in following through on the Plan of Action.
We also have a considerable number of new instruments in the area of justice and home affairs. The European Arrest Warrant is already producing concrete results, and we are moving towards the “free movement of judicial decisions” in the EU, through which judicial decisions – such as arrest and surrender of suspects, confiscation, and freezing of assets – will be mutually recognized. Furthermore, the European Border Agency will become operational in 2005.
As requested by the European Council, I am developing, in cooperation with the European Commission, a strategy to shut down terrorist financing. This is where the real test of cooperation lies, for our success will rely on securing the appropriate interaction and flow of intelligence between the relevant services and the financial and banking communities.
I firmly believe that the military option alone cannot defeat terror. Judicial, police, and intelligence cooperation should be the focal point for action. This does not mean that we are not working on how European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) can offer a meaningful contribution. But ESDP is not at the core of our efforts.
Aside from security and intelligence efforts, we must also work to deny “oxygen” to the terrorists. This means addressing the factors that contribute to support for and recruitment by terrorist groups. Regional conflicts cause anger and resentment. The unresolved Arab-Israeli problem leads to the rise of radicalism and extremism. There is entirely too much fuel for terrorist propaganda.
The EU will be tough on terrorism. But it must also be tough on the causes of terrorism. These are not two fights, but one.