EU debates definition of terrorism

The EU’s ministers of justice and public order have begun a wide-ranging and difficult debate on plans for a new framework for defining terrorism and drawing up a list of crimes that can be described as terrorist activities. The ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday but could not agree on a number of issues, as Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos made clear in a statement yesterday. The basic idea of what constitutes terrorism is when the perpetrators cause serious damage that is related to frightening citizens or societies or their social, economic and political structures. Also, 11 categories of crimes that can be considered terrorism are included in a draft framework for fighting terrorism that is to be ratified on December 6 at the council of justice and public order ministers in Brussels. In a statement yesterday, Stathopoulos said, in relation to the definition of terrorism, a number of countries initially supported a broad definition which included the support of terrorism as well as any urging to carry out terrorist acts. The Greek delegation was opposed to this idea, Stathopoulos said, adding that in the next meetings of ministers it is expected that the understanding of what constitutes terrorism will be more focused so as not to harm or jeopardize the expression of opinions relating to terrorism. The ministers agreed on a general platform that terrorist acts are those in which the perpetrators cause serious damage to the political, economic or social structures of a country. The Greek delegation argued that the definition of terrorism should include, among other things, the idea of the malice of the terrorist act and the intention to frighten citizens, so as to distinguish this more clearly from other activities which might also be illegal but not constitute terrorism, Stathopoulos said. This clarification is aimed at differentiation from actions that might be aimed, for example, at overthrowing a dictatorship. The proposed list of terrorist crimes, which met with serious disagreement from many ministers, included: murder; assault; hostage-taking; taking over state facilities, public transportation, buildings or public halls; blackmail; armed robbery; moving arms and explosives; interfering with the water supply, electricity supply or other natural resources; hacking; attempting to carry out such crimes. Although the statement did not mention which points the Greek delegation disagreed with, it is certain that among its reservations was the taking over of public transport as this could mean that protesting workers could be described as terrorists. The Greeks also wanted a more precise definition of when arson could constitute terrorism. The ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden voiced similar concerns, while the ministers of Britain, Spain and Portugal were the least compromising. In his statement, Stathopoulos referred to the protocol that was signed and according to which each EU member can ask for information, including the lifting of banking confidentiality, in the case of a judicial investigation into serious crimes, without this excluding terrorism (which is often funded by illegal activities). The ministers adopted a draft allowing the impounding of assets or other evidence necessary for the tracing of serious crimes and they worked on the proposal for the establishment of a Europe-wide arrest warrant to be used within the framework of the war on terrorism. New universities. The Education Ministry has recommended the founding of two new universities, in Western Macedonia and Eastern Sterea (central Greece), rejecting applications from another 300 parliamentary deputies, prefectural and municipal officials, and various associations for tertiary institutions in their areas. The criterion used was the maximum number of students that is considered feasible for a community, which in this case is 200 students per 1,000 inhabitants.

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