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I was keen to inform you as quickly as possible about the progress of the work done at the extraordinary European Council held on 21 September involving the heads of state and government of the European Union. I felt that it was important to involve you, as MEPs, closely in the European Union's talks and decisions ? as we have done since the tragic events occurred.
As you know, the European Council met to analyse the international situation following the terrorist attacks in the United States and to give the necessary impetus to the actions taken by the European Union.
The talks rapidly led to unanimous conclusions, the text of which was made public on the evening of Friday, 21 September. I will not read it out here, but I would like to emphasise the most important points.
I will first inform you that the Presidency is most satisfied to see the European Union decide that the fight against terrorism is a priority, now more than ever, and to reaffirm its unyielding determination to take concerted action under any and all circumstances. The terrorist threat is a test for European integration. The unanimity displayed by the European Council, the quality of its debate, and the adoption of comprehensive measures all show that the Union was able to take up the challenge.
This extraordinary Council gave the Union an opportunity to get several important messages across.
First message: a message of solidarity and cooperation with the United States.
The European Union shares the same values as the United States: those of an open, democratic, multicultural society. The Union will stand alongside the United States to bring to justice the perpetrators of these barbarous acts, together with their sponsors and accomplices, and ensure that they are punished. We are of the opinion that targeted American reprisals are legitimate under Security Council Resolution 1368. We are prepared to commit ourselves to this line, each according to our means.
However, we must not underestimate the seriousness of this scourge. If we are to succeed, we must have the backing of a broad coalition, under the aegis of the United Nations. This coalition would include candidates for EU access, the Russian Federation and our Arab partners.
The second message that the European Union would like to get across following this Council is that it is fully committed to fighting terrorism, and to this end has adopted an action plan comprising five series of measures:
The first series of measures consists of bolstering essential police and judicial cooperation. To this end, the European Council has set a number of objectives, including the creation of a European arrest warrant and the establishment of a common definition of terrorism.
The Council has also taken a firm decision to adopt measures for identifying terrorists and the organisations that support them in order to draw up lists. The role of Europol and its cooperation with the United States will be reinforced.
The second series of measures in the action plan ? which I feel to be very important ? involves the development of international legal instruments. There many such instruments that need to be implemented, and it would no doubt be valuable to examine ? as India has suggested ? the idea of a general convention condemning international terrorism.
The third series of measures on which the European Union would like to work involves the financing of terrorism. Here, too, specific action will be taken EU-wide with regard to money laundering and involving the freezing of assets.
The fourth series of measures concerns aviation safety. The Union intends to quickly devise a set of technical measures for this purpose (baggage checks, technical training for crew and so on).
Lastly, the fifth series of measures involves the common foreign and security policy as a whole. The emphasis is on the need to coordinate the Union's overall action. The idea here is to bolster the common foreign and security policy in order to incorporate the fight against terrorism, including the systematic reassessment of relations between the EU and third countries in light of any support which such countries might give terrorism.
In the medium to long term, the fight against terrorism will also require the Union to reinforce its prevention policy and to become more involved in stabilising regional conflicts.
In this context, the EU certainly intends to enhance its role with the assistance of the United States, Russia and its Arab partners in order to work towards finding a long-term solution to the Middle East conflict.
In addition, the development of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the European security and defence policy (ESDP) could have a long-lasting effect. These EU policies must not be used as tools for reprisals, but as means of prevention.
Conflict prevention also implies an unstinting commitment on the part of the EU to integrate all countries into a global system of security and sustainable prosperity.
Finally, we must pay special attention to the problem of refugees. On this point the Commission will devise projects to assist Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries.
The final message sent by the European Council was to reassure the European countries and the markets about the economy ? it will be helped in this endeavour by the conclusions of the informal ECOFIN Council held at the same time in Liège ? and to stress the positive role the euro will play in this economic context.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the content of the European Council's message of 21 September.
In conclusion, I would like to make two comments:
As is so often the case, the crisis situation created by the attacks in New York and Washington has given impetus to European unification. The extraordinary session of the European Council on 21 September provided an opportunity to take practical decisions and to display genuine European leadership. The Belgian EU Presidency will endeavour to follow up these commitments at the forthcoming General Affairs Council in October and at the European Council in Ghent.
An extraordinary meeting of the General Affairs Council has been scheduled for the morning of 19 October. The meeting will give the Council an opportunity to coordinate the full range of work done by the various Councils, which are responsible for sectoral aspects of the fight against terrorism and for preparing for the European Council meeting scheduled for the afternoon of 19 October in Ghent.
While making the fight against terrorism a priority, we must not, however, be diverted from other projects that are fundamental to European integration. I would like to confirm here and now that the Belgian EU Presidency will endeavour to comply with its programme on preparing for the introduction of the euro, enlargement negotiations and the implementation of the European security and defence policy.
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