Report: EU Terrorism Threat Rising
The European law enforcement organisation, Europol, has come out with its first report on the terrorism situation in the EU saying that although it is not a new phenomenon in Europe, the threat to member states is more serious than ever.
The report - which gives an overview of terrorism activities in the EU's 27member states - was presented to the European Parliament on Tuesday (10 April) where EU officials debated proposals for boosting the powers of the bloc's law enforcement arm to enhance police cooperation in fighting cross-border crime and terrorism.
According to the report, 706 individuals were arrested in 15 member states on suspicion of terrorism offences in 2006, half of those arrests involved threats from Islamic extremists.
Almost 500 terrorist attacks were reportedly carried out in 11 member states last year with separatists and nationalists in the Basque region of Spain and on the French island of Corsica responsible for most of the attacks.
Only one terrorist attack in 2006 was registered as having to do with Islamic extremism, according to the report.
"Terrorism is not a new phenomenon in the EU. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century, the threat posed by terrorism to member states is more serious than ever," the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statistics sound more serious that the reality, said head of Europol Max-Peter Ratzel, according to Danish Daily Berlingske Tidende.
"Most of the attacks by far resulted in limited material damage and did not have the aim to kill. But the failed attacks in Germany and London showed that Islamic terrorists aim for many victims," he added.
Intelligence police in Germany and the UK arrested persons allegedly planning to blow up trains and transatlantic air carriers respectively in July and August last year.
There was one terrorist attack with a fatal outcome in 2006. Basque separatist group ETA bombed a parking lot at the Madrid airport on 30 December killing two men.
Europol was set up in 1994 to combat serious international crime and terrorism across the bloc.
Brussels is keen to extend the agency's mandate to criminal issues that are not strictly related to organised crime and give the organisation greater access to various data on people under investigation, prompting concerns that privacy protection laws could be violated.
"These proposals give Europol a carte blanche to collect whatever information it wants, regardless of its relevance," said UK conservative MEP Syed Kammal in a statement.
Mr Ratzel countered that the kind of data sought by Europol would not threaten privacy.
"We do not, for example, seek such information as data on consumers from supermarkets," he said, according to the Associated Press.
But he said EU member countries should give greater access to personal data for fighting crimes such as child pornography, serial killings or violence at sporting events, which often have a cross-border element.
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