Fixing Europe's War On Terrorism

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Can a new terrorism czar get all 25 European Union nations working from the same antiterrorism playbook? Gijs de Vries will soon find out. The U.S.-born Dutch Liberal was named last week as the E.U.'s first Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, charged in part with getting Europe's security services to work together in their campaign against terrorism. De Vries, 48, isn't the obvious choice. He spent four years, from 1998 to 2002, as Dutch Deputy Interior Minister. He has since served as the Dutch representative to the convention drafting the E.U. constitution. De Vries is well known as a defender of privacy and civil rights — which might reassure those who are worried about intrusive new antiterrorism laws but won't please those who think the police need new tools to protect Europeans from attack.

De Vries, who will answer to European Council Secretary-General Javier Solana, may benefit from a burst of cooperation in the wake of the Madrid train bombings. Just 10 days after Sept. 11, 2001, European leaders signed off on an "action plan" against terrorism. But it was never fully carried out. A European arrest warrant, for instance, which simplifies the process of making cross-border arrests, still hasn't been adopted by Germany, Italy, Greece or the Netherlands. But in Brussels last week the European Council decreed that all elements of the 2001 plan be in place by June. It also urged more controversial measures, like common rules on getting biometric data onto passports. To do all that, De Vries will have to keep Europe focused on the menacing message of the Madrid bombing.