EU mulls united border police

EU nations yesterday backed the idea of creating a European border police force that would be operational at airports and harbors by 2007 at the latest. The final decision on this and other issues related to the effort to deal with illegal immigration and terrorism will be dealt with at the EU summit in Seville on June 20-21. EU ministers of interior and public order met informally yesterday in Rome, in the shadow of recent gains by anti-immigration parties in several nations in past months. Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who was at the meeting, said that it had focused mostly on operational issues, in other words, how the various bodies, services and agencies could work together. The complete package of proposals – asylum, police operations and the social costs of the whole effort will be dealt with at the Seville summit, he said. Chrysochoidis repeated Greece’s offer to serve as a central observatory for the EU in watching over the smuggling of immigrants. EU governments have often pledged to forge a common immigration policy, but have not taken steps to do so. Italy’s Interior Minister Claudio Scajola said he believed the events of September 11 had changed attitudes. «Europe does not want to be a fortress, but there is an awareness we must monitor the flow of people,» he said. At the meeting, the EU interior ministers reviewed a feasibility study for a border police force to monitor airports – the most common entry points in Europe for illegal immigrants – scan the Internet for traffickers in human beings and coordinate continent-wide efforts to stem the influx of illegals. The border force would not require new officers. Instead, governments would assign existing police officers to the force. (Kathimerini, AP)