US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, US Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein and European Commission Vice President Franco Frattini met today in Berlin with Federal Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble and Federal Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries of Germany, current holder of the rotating EU Presidency. The Portuguese state secretaries of justice and internal affairs, José Conde Rodrigues und Dr José Madalhães, represented the upcoming Portuguese EU Presidency. Their talks focused on counter-terrorism, data protection and visa issues as well as EU policy in the field of criminal law.
In Berlin, Federal Minister Schäuble stated, "Threats facing the US and Europe alike require a joint response and cannot be managed by going it alone. Together, the European Union and the United States have the necessary influence to deal with the global challenges of the 21st century. This is why we must work together closely and with mutual trust on security issues of international importance, such as combating international terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking. The German EU Presidency therefore wants to strengthen the strategically significant transatlantic relations for the long term." Vice President Frattini concurred and added: "The transatlantic security partnership is particularly strong in the area of justice, freedom and security. Our common goals are clear: to protect our citizens' security by making sure law enforcement authorities have the right information they need to do their work and at the same time protect our citizens' fundamental rights."
"At a time of global threat from international terrorism, security issues play a significant role in the cooperation between the EU and the United States. In order to over-come these challenges together, we must closely coordinate our efforts, share infor-mation and cooperate on law enforcement as much as possible.
At the same time, we want to increase the confidence of EU citizens that their legitimate interests are being looked after. Creating an area of freedom, security and justice also and above all means protecting and securing civil liberties," said Federal Minister of Justice Zypries.
"We all value the Internet as a global platform for sharing information. Unfortunately, we need to be aware that criminals also use this medium for their illegal activities. As in the case of organized crime, national approaches alone cannot provide the desired results. Rather, Europe and the United States must work closely together," Zypries added.
In the field of counter-terrorism, the talks today focused on the problem of radicalization and recruitment of terrorist supporters. Both sides also discussed the role of the Internet in this regard, as well as possible approaches to solving the problem.
On behalf of the European Union, Schäuble welcomed the progress already made by a joint high-level contact group on data protection in drafting common basic principles of data protection law. The group was set up in November 2006 for the most recent meeting of EU and US ministers in Washington. But specific data protection regulations must not be overlooked, Frattini said, in particular concerning the question of sharing passenger name records (PNR). Since the applicable interim agreement between the EU and the US runs out at the end of July 2007, a new agreement must be concluded in time. The EU aims at a long-term agreement which ensures legal certainty, a high level of security and robust data protection.
Regarding current visa-related issues between the US and the EU, Vice President Frattini and Minister Schäuble agreed: "Both sides will profit from a solution which respects legitimate US security interests while exempting all Member States from the visa requirement, thus furthering our close political and economic ties. We appreciate the efforts already made by the US but we must accelerate and end this situation of unequal treatment of EU Member States."
The citizens of twelve EU Member States (Greece and all the countries that joined the EU on or after 1 May 2004 except Slovenia) need visas to enter the US for stays of up to three months. By contrast, US citizens do not need a visa to enter any EU Member State. In their meeting with Secretary Chertoff, Vice President Frattini and Minister Schäuble again stressed the importance of equal treatment by the US for all EU Member States and urged substantial progress regarding visa-free travel for all EU citizens.