Split on how to stop nuclear smugglers

DEEP DIVISIONS over Europol, the European Union's putative police agency, re-emerged yesterday as Germany pushed for nuclear smuggling to be brought under its control.

EU interior and justice ministers meeting in Berlin remained split over the functions and organisation of the body, forcing a further postponement of its birth. Germany favours promoting it as an embryonic police force for Europe, but Britain and France are deeply opposed.

Manfred Kanther, the German Interior Minister, yesterday suggested adding the problem of nuclear smuggling to the agency's tasks. Germany is concerned by seizures of radioactive materials apparently coming from Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries through Germany. There were 41 cases of nuclear smuggling in Germany in 1991, 158 in 1992 and 241 in 1993, even before the incidents this year.

But the idea received a lukewarm response from other states, especially Britain and France. Michael Forsyth, Home Office Minister, suggested that the best path would be to collect data to assess how serious the problem was. In Britain there was no evidence that nuclear smuggling was a problem, said Mr Forsyth.

Today EU ministers will discuss the topic with Central and Eastern European counterparts. Though British officials were at pains to point out that they supported general efforts to tackle the problem, there is clearly enormous reluctance to give the new police agency powers to tackle it. Both Britain and France, as nuclear powers, also opposed an earlier German scheme launched by Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister, for multilateral control of nuclear weapons materials.

Germany favours the expansion of Europol's role to cover a wider range of activities than drug smuggling and money laundering, which is all that is envisaged now. It also wants to develop it as the embryo of a European police force, with operational capabilities, rather than as simply a mechanism for exchanging data, as is planned. Other states, in particular France and Britain, are radically opposed to this. Yesterday, ministers tentatively agreed that eventually Europol could cover terrorism as well, at Spanish insistence.

The creation of a European police agency was first agreed in 1991, an initiative pushed hard by Germany. However, the convention to set up Europol continues to be bogged down in disputes that appear small but in fact conceal huge differences of opinion about the future of European integration in the area of internal affairs. It was hoped this could be finalised by next month but officials said yesterday they had made little progress and this has now been pushed back to November.

France and Britain firmly oppose giving the European Court of Justice any role in Europol, fearing that this would lead to a loss of sovereignty. They are keen to keep the integration of European police issues at the level of co-operation between states. There is also a dispute over the role of the European Parliament in supervising the body, with the Netherlands insisting on a role for the assembly.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before