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Wednesday, 7 September 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Liberty and security

  Cecilia Malmström (ALDE ). (SV) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, the acts of terrorism in London last summer showed again how vulnerable our open democracies are. Again, innocent people are hit on the way to work. How do we protect ourselves when our own fellow citizens, including respected neighbours and popular family men, are suddenly turned into ruthless death machines?

More than ever, cooperation is needed to help prevent, investigate, expose and arrest those who plan terrorist acts or other cross-border crime. The culprits are well ahead of both police and politicians precisely when it comes to cross-border cooperation. We must become much better at cooperating successfully to the same degree.

We talk a lot but, as fellow Members have already pointed out, very little has happened. Our counter-terrorism coordinator, Gijs de Vries has of course pointed out on quite a few occasions of there being too much talk and too little action. No one is inclined to put their money where their mouth is, as they say.

In particular, the intelligence work about which Mr Clarke talked with such commitment is really central. Europol and Eurojust must be given many more resources and perhaps be developed into some kind of European FBI that can coordinate and lead preliminary and other investigations and perhaps even go in and make arrests. It should be possible to coordinate information and intelligence from the various Member States.

The fight against criminality is always an important balancing act between the need for security and tough measures and the need for individual privacy. Developments in recent years have forced us all in some degree to lower our standards regarding privacy. For example, cameras in public places are accepted more and more. They also played an important role in the work done by the police in London to identify the terrorist bombers.

Every measure must always be carefully weighed up. I have so far not been convinced by the arguments for developing extensive systems for storing data, telephone conversations, e-mails and text messages. Developing these would be a very major encroachment on privacy, with a high risk of the systems being abused in many ways. The fact is that most of us, after all, are not criminals.

Last updated: 3 November 2005Legal notice