Efforts by Belgium to launch a new nine-nation European counter-terrorism scheme have already begun to fall apart, with the Swedes reported to be dropping out because the Belgian plan is only a political gesture and “repeats what law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are already doing.”
The Belgian initiative follows plans reported in Breitbart yesterday that the European Union and the United States are drawing up a new wave of anti-terror measures to try to stop the growing number of would-be jihadists from going to fight in Syria and Iraq.
“Recent developments in Iraq increase the need to act immediately,” the EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said.
Belgium, which suffered a terrorist shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May in which four people died, led interior ministers from Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, The Netherlands and Britain at a meeting in Milan on Tuesday to put together a plan of action to identify young people who have signed up to fight with Islamist groups against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The suspect in the Brussels shooting is 29-year old Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen of Algerian extraction who was linked to jihadist groups in Syria in 2013.
A source told EU Observer that Sweden was not alone in thinking the Belgian scheme was just a gesture: “A lot of others in the group said the same thing, but at the end of the day, they accepted some vague language so they could sign a political facade saying ‘We are united in this’.”
“It is for domestic purposes. Milquet [the Belgian interior minister] wants to show she is doing a lot of things to tackle this phenomenon, she has to show something,” after the Brussels shootings.
Belgium is to present its scheme to the other 27 member states in October. The plan entails using existing programmes and agencies such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), the EU’s police agency Europol, passenger name records, and targeted border controls to identify the estimated 2,000 Europeans — 800 alone from France, including several women — who are thought to be engaged in fighting in Syria.
But the Belgian interior minister has not yet explained what the new scheme will do with the SIS and other programmes that counter-terrorism agencies are not already doing.
More, there is the question of political and legal challenges over what constitutes a “foreign fighter” and whether EU member states will be able to agree a definition.
An EU source said to EU Observer: “If you are Syrian and you go and see your brother in Syria, are you a foreign fighter then or are you just a young man who has family abroad and misses them a lot?”