Europe faces a "very real" and "persistent" threat from terrorism
The whole of Europe faces a "very real" and "persistent" threat from terrorism, the home secretary, John Reid, warned today, as an EU commissioner called for a crackdown on extremist websites. Mr Reid warned that the threat was "not unique to the UK" and required a consistent approach to tackle the threat across Europe.
Flanked by the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, and German interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, Mr Reid told reporters: "It's very important that the measures that are taken in one country are reflected in other countries because we want equal security for all our countries." Mr Reid met his EU ministerial counterparts to discuss counter-terrorism in light of the arrests of alleged bomb plotters in England last week.
Also attending the meeting were Kari Rajamaki, the interior minister of Finland, the current holder of the presidency of the EU, and Franco Frattini, vice-president of the European Commission.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Reid said the threat was "virtually unconstrained in its capacity and ability to do immense harm, death and destruction" due to modern technology and biological and chemical weapons. "What's clear to all of us is that we face a persistent and very real threat across Europe," he said.
He went on: "Its adherents ... would abuse our open societies, would misuse our freedoms and adapt the latest technology to their evil intent and have no regard for human life or for human rights.
"We must not and will not allow terrorists to undermine the common European values that bind our societies together and make us strong."
He also echoed comments made by Mr Frattini that "nothing, absolutely nil" had been discussed about the use of profiling of air passengers for tougher security checks, which some fear would discriminate against young Asian men.
Mr Frattini also called for a crackdown on extremist internet sites and a meeting at European-level with schoolteachers to prevent classroom violence eventually leading to extremist radicalisation.
There was a balance to be struck between "freedom of expression and incitement to terrorism", he said.
"I think it's very important to explore further possibilities of blocking websites that incite to commit terrorist actions."
There are "a lot of websites" providing information about bomb-making, he added.
Mr Frattini said that he would be bringing forward new proposals in the coming days relating to controls on liquid explosives and commercial detonators.
Mr Reid refused to confirm or deny if the UK government was pursuing the extradition of suspects from Pakistan, but he expressed his "gratitude" to Pakistani authorities for their role in the investigation. He said that they were looking at the possibilities for exchanging information about airline passengers across the EU.
Mr Reid said ministers had discussed other practical measures to combat the terrorist threat, including the coordination of transport security and a "whole discussion" about the nature of European Islam".
Also on the table was the issue of intelligence-sharing, including a "formal coming together" of intelligence agencies" towards the end of the month.
He said that Mr Sarkozy had also proposed establishing an EU-wide panel of counter terrorism experts who could be sent to help member states in need of assistance.
"These are practical ideas to be further explored and implemented," he said.
Mr Reid said it was right that future EU presidents had also attended the meeting.
"That is important because the threat is an enduring threat and will require therefore an enduring response," he added. Mr Rajamaki echoed Mr Reid's call for Europe-wide coordination.
"The UK has the solidarity and support of the whole European Union and every member state.
"Finland will use its EU presidency to do its utmost to implement the common EU counter-terrorism strategies and take the work forward. We must concentrate action to protect our citizens and prevent terrorist acts."
Mr Reid used the press briefing to criticise claims made yesterday by David Cameron, the Conservative leader, that the government was not doing enough in the fight against extremism.
"I think David Cameron's remarks are disappointing and ill-judged. At a time when we need the maximum unity in this country and throughout Europe, I think they were unhelpful. The main thing is to concentrate on practical actions of counter-terrorism."
And he stressed that, although delays caused by restrictions on flights in the UK were "regretful", the alternative could be loss of life. "I want to thank my European colleagues but also the many visitors to this country who have put up with the inconvenience of the last few days. It's not possible to fight terrorism without inconvenience.
"It's deeply regretful if someone loses their baggage. It's far more regretful if they lose their life. It's terrible if somebody is delayed, but a delay is more acceptable than death."
He added: "The inconvenience has not been imposed for the sake of imposing it. It has been imposed in order to defeat terrorism and to protect our public and that is what the three ministers have as our highest priority."
Pressed for more details about the alleged airline bomb plot, Mr Reid said: "I don't think I can give any more information than is already in the public domain.
"We are trying to get the balance between ensuring sufficient information for the British public and our European colleagues as well as assisting people to understand the threat, but at the same time not to go so far as to undermine either our investigations or the judicial process."
The whole of Europe faces a "very real" and "persistent" threat from terrorism, the home secretary, John Reid, warned today, as an EU commissioner called for a crackdown on extremist websites.
Mr Reid warned that the threat was "not unique to the UK" and required a consistent approach to tackle the threat across Europe.
Flanked by the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, and German interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, Mr Reid told reporters: "It's very important that the measures that are taken in one country are reflected in other countries because we want equal security for all our countries."