EU could invest in higher security of candidates

  • 2001-10-18
  • BNS
RIGA - European Union candidate countries could enjoy additional investment in their internal security following the recent terrorist attacks in the United States.

Because the 13 candidate countries - including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - banded together to join in the EU's strategy to fight terrorism, Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said additional money may be available to beef up their defenses.

"The new global threat has left very strong influence on enlargement creating the need for greater integration of countries in the areas of internal security and border control," Verheugen said at an Oct. 12 news conference.

He added that the EU could extend additional funds to the candidate countries in order to strengthen border control, making it more difficult for terrorists to travel.

Money could flow in from pre-accession funds if the EU decides on restructuring priorities.

"There will be money if it is needed," Verheugen said.

The threat of terrorist retaliation in the wake of U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan is one factor that may push the EU toward increasing security in potential member countries.

All of the candidates have already been devoting increased attention to internal security and border control following the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and the damage to the Pentagon. Latvia has stepped up control of people and cargo at Riga International Airport, border checkpoints and other sensitive or popular sites around the country.

The issue of funding increased security at the external borders of an enlarged Europe may arise at the upcoming European Free Trade Association meeting, where candidate countries, Russian and EU officials will meet.

The admission strategy - which should let advanced countries join the EU by 2004 - is the best way to make Europe safer, because the number of countries based on the rule of law and human rights would grow, Verheugen said.

Latvia hopes to close the EU membership talks by the end of 2002 to be able to join the European Parliament elections in 2004 as a full fledged member country. To date it has closed 16 out of 31 chapters of the membership talks and hopes to close nine more by the end the year.