- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will meet with European Union officials this weekend at The Hague to discuss international anti-terrorism efforts.

Mr. Ridge will join the past, current and future holders of the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union, at a meeting known as the Troika, in which the EU’s strategy is mapped out.

Up for discussion will be implementation of the counterterrorism measures agreed on by the 25 member states at their last summit meeting in June and the strengthening of cooperation with the United States.

Officials on both sides of the ocean insist they are each others’ best allies, but tensions exist over how fast to move on new security measures and how to tackle the root causes of terrorism.

Acknowledging that there was “room for improvement,” EU counterterrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries told journalists in Washington this week that even on a subject as basic as the nature of the conflict, the allies did not always see eye to eye.

“Europeans by and large feel hesitant about [using] the term ‘war’” to describe the struggle against terrorism, he said. “It seems to suggest that one faces a single, identifiable enemy.”

Different views about the nature of the enemy are “a source of tension,” said Julianne Smith, deputy director of the International Security Program at the Center for Security and International Studies in Washington.

Europeans and Americans, she added, “agree on [what] the threats [are], but not on the means to deal with them.” Americans, she said, are much more aggressive about the use of “hard power” military forces, whereas Europeans traditionally have preferred “soft power” diplomacy, such as sanctions and the use of international legal machinery.

Mr. Ridge’s trip comes amid tensions between the United States and European nations over changes in U.S. entry procedures for visitors.

Under the so-called visa-waiver program, citizens of 27 countries, including 15 member states of the 25-strong EU, can visit the United States for up to three months without requiring a visa.

Beginning Sept. 30, however, all visitors taking advantage of the program will be photographed and fingerprinted as they arrive and enrolled in the US-VISIT biometric-screening system. Their fingerprints, like those of all arriving visa holders, will be compared with those on terrorist and criminal watch lists.

Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary for policy and planning at the Homeland Security Department, led a U.S. team that spent much of last year locked in difficult negotiations with the EU over the advance delivery of computerized information about arriving passengers from the booking records of the airlines.

A deal was eventually hammered out earlier this year with the European Commission, the executive body of the EU. But despite the inclusion at the commission’s insistence of privacy protections, the European Parliament voted against the deal by a sizable majority.

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