Europe speeds up plan to clamp down on suspects

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The Independent Online

A day of talks in Brussels brought pledges to meet an accelerated timetable for a host of data storage and information-sharing initiatives, giving police and security services new means to monitor individuals.

The reaction to the first home-grown suicide bombing on European soil was pragmatic, with the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, saying there is "no one, single, measure I can propose that will stop terrorism".

Instead of proposing new ideas, the UK, which holds the presidency of the EU, sought to speed up measures already in the pipeline. Most controversially, yesterday's deal included a promise to agree by October on rules to retain for at least 12 months all e-mail and phone data.

This would include details of the date, time and duration all phone and internet messages, the calling and called numbers, the location of mobile calls at the start and end of a connection and whether the conversation was "terminated explicably or inexplicably". By December all 25 EU ministers promised to finalise rules on a European evidence warrant and on the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities.

Deadlines were also laid down for agreement to identify those making wire money transfers from the EU and on a code of conduct to prevent terrorists misusing charities. Other initiatives include protecting key infrastructure and sharing information on explosives. The decisions came as France activated a safety clause of the Schengen open-border agreement under which it can resume temporarily frontier controls with neighbours such as Germany and Belgium.

The French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said: "If we don't reinforce border controls when around 50 people die in London, I don't know when I would." But the move ruffled feathers in next-door Belgium, which was not informed about the measure before Mr Sarkozy's announcement.

And in Italy a judge convicted two North Africans of belonging to an extremist cell alleged to have planned attacks, including one against Milan's subway. Judge Silvia Milesi sentenced the defendants - a Moroccan, Mohamed Rafik, and Kamel Hamraoui, a Tunisian - to up to four years and eight months in prison, a defence lawyer said.

The ministers also promised yesterday to examine the causes of the radicalisation of young Muslims. An unpublished report from the European Commission identified a "crisis of identity" among young people born to immigrant parents as a key danger. The document, leaked to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, describes radicalisation as "a modern kind of dictatorship", likens it to neo-Nazism or nationalism, and says the internet, university campuses and places of worship are tools of recruitment. It says second-generation immigrants often feel little connection to their parents' country or culture but may also encounter discrimination in European countries.

"Alienation from both parental roots and country of origin, and the society in which they live, can lead to a desire to identify with a more motivating or powerful locus of identity."

The Commission document questions whether governments should organise education of religious teachers to ensure that they are "fluent in the language and the constitutional values of the member state concerned". But it concedes this might smack of a "Big Brother" approach.