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Observatory on European defence, March 2004


March 2004 
EU - International Terrorism

On 11 March a series of attacks against the state railways in Madrid killed approximately 200 people and injured 1400 more. 
The Islamic root of the attempts emerged in the following hours: Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks carried out by a Moroccan terrorist group. 
The attack took place immediately prior to the Spanish political elections, regularly held on 14 March. The victory of the centre-left opposition does not seem to have modified Spain’s commitment to the fight against terrorism, but an impact is expected on the military mission in Iraq, as well as on the process of adopting the European Constitution, both points at issue with the outgoing Spanish government. 
Before the attacks, the EU submitted a confidential report that condemns the member states’ general lack of compliance with the decisions to counter international terrorism taken by the 21 September 2001 extraordinary Summit following the 11 September attacks against the United States. 
The first European reaction, after expressions of solidarity, was registered on 15 March, with a declaration by the Irish Presidency that included a draft proposal for action to be submitted to the following Council meetings. 
On 15 March, the Group of Personalities for Security Research presented its report which proposes the adoption of a European research programme specifically developing technologies broadly related to citizens’ security. 
On 18 March the European Commission introduced an Action Paper including five proposals (declaration of solidarity, implementation of existing legislative instruments, fight against financing of terrorist networks, enhanced operational coordination and cooperation, external action) to tackle the phenomenon, partially taking up the Irish draft. 
Moreover, on 18 March the Coreper gathered to prepare the coming Council.
On 19 March an extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council and, on 22 March, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, discussed and further elaborated the proposals in view of the European Council decisions at the end of the month. 
At the operational level, meetings gathering European and national police services were held on 23-24 March. 
Finally, on 25-26 March, the European Council adopted a Declaration to tackle terrorism that identifies the following measures: 

  • adoption of the Solidarity Clause contained in Article I-42 of Europe’s draft Constitution 
  • implementation of the European Security Strategy 
  • a Revised Plan of Action - in the Declaration Annex I - of the ‘European Union Strategic Objectives to combat terrorism’ 
  • enactment, by June 2004, of the relevant legislative measures already adopted at the European level and not yet operationalized 
  • appointment of a Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (Mr. Gijs de Vries, Dutch) working within the General Secretariat framework 
  • improvement of cooperation among members at the judicial, police and intelligence services level and with the supranational frameworks of Europol and Eurojust, through a cell for the exchange of information 
  • strengthening of border controls and the security of identification documents 
  • prevention of the financing of terrorist cells 
  • counter-terrorism as a key element in relations with Third Countries 
  • the fight against the primary causes of terrorism 
  • improvement of civil protection measures 
  • strengthening transatlantic collaboration. 

The proposal to establish an independent European Agency for intelligence, submitted by Austria and the Benelux countries, encountered strong opposition.

March 2004 
NATO - EU - Kosovo

On 17 March, the Albanian majority in Kosovo, rising up against the Serbian minority and the international administration of the region, caused destruction in several areas of the country, with 28 victims and over 600 injured (of which 60 among NATO and KFOR forces). 
NATO’s immediate reaction led to the deployment of reinforcements (about 2,000 men) coming from the strategic reserve for operations in the Balkans; this operation contributed to restoring order in a few days. 
The NATO Permanent Council gathered on 19 March to analyse the situation, condemning the violence and adopting the measures deemed necessary to restore order. 
The events were examined and condemned by the European Union as well, at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 22 March and the European Council on 25-26 March; the EU confirmed its commitment to guaranteeing security and multiethnic cohabitation in the area. 
These acts of violence again dramatically raised the issue of the final status of Kosovo, formally a Serbian region but practically under the control of the international community since 1999.

1 March 2004 
EU Military Staff - Appointment Director-General 

French General Jean-Paul Perruche is the new Director-General of the EU Military Staff, succeeding German General Rainer Schuwirth. 
The priorities declared by the Director-General are the development of European capabilities and the interoperability of national forces, the inclusion of the 10 new EU members (from 1 May) and the establishment of an independent planning cell.

22 March 2004 
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) - Reaction Force, Mediterranean Strategy

The GAERC, besides broadly discussing international terrorism (see above), dealt with the EU strategy towards the Mediterranean and the Middle East and the European capabilities development. 
The GAERC analysed a working paper called ‘EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East’, considering the adoption of a definitive version at the European Council of June.
The General Affairs Council adopted the Anglo-Franco-German proposal to develop a ‘Battle Group Concept’ to improve the rapid reaction capabilities of military forces, urging its definitive adoption by the end of the semester.

29 March 2004 
NATO - Enlargement

On 29 March, with a celebration held in Washington followed on 2 April by a celebration at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Atlantic Alliance admitted 7 new members: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. 
The notification process of the ratifications accepting the Protocol of Adhesion was completed on 2 March. 
Accession to NATO of the three former Soviet Baltic republics caused a negative reaction in neighbouring Russia for reasons of history and prestige, and bought on the deployment of an air defence system in the area. 
Five of the seven countries (all excepting Bulgaria and Romania) will become EU members on 1 May.

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