Confronting terrorism through democratic means: The Madrid Agenda at the European level

15 June 2005

The Club de Madrid and the European Policy Centre jointly held a Policy Dialogue entitled “Confronting terrorism through democratic means: The Madrid Agenda at the European level.” The Dialogue was divided into two panel discussions, preceded by introductory remarks by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and President of the Club de Madrid and a keynote speech by the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini. The first panel, entitled “The Madrid Agenda at the European Level” was chaired by John Palmer, Political Director of the European Policy Centre and featured Antonio Vitorino, former European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs and Vice-President of the EPC Advisory Council and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Vice-President of the Club of Madrid. The second panel discussion was chaired by Petre Roman, former Prime Minister of Romania and Member of the Club de Madrid. It was entitled “Security, democracy and human rights – Finding the right EU policy mix to counter terrorism.” Mr. Roman was joined on the panel by Jean-Marie Cavada, Member of the European Parliament and Gilles de Kerchove, Director for Justice and Home Affairs at the European Council. Both panel discussions were followed by question and answer sessions with the audience. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada and Secretary General of the Club de Madrid, offered her closing remarks. This is not an official record of the proceedings and specific remarks are not necessarily attributable.




Panellists at the joint Club de Madrid/European Policy Centre Policy Dialogue overwhelmingly agreed that the fight against terrorism could not be conducted at the price of curtailing the fundamental rights that were inherent to the European Union. Participants found a great degree of overlap between the Madrid Agenda formulated at an international summit held in Madrid in March, a year after the terrorist attacks in Spain. All acknowledged that achieving the right balance between policies aimed at preventing terrorist acts and increasing Europe’s security with civil and fundamental rights was a delicate matter, but the only way forward in confronting threats with democratic means. In an effort to move ahead with global anti-terrorist measures, participants felt that agreement on the common definition of terrorism as proposed by the UN High Level Panel was imperative.


Event Report


Introducing the Dialogue, Fernando Henrique Cardoso said that since the conclusion of the Madrid Agenda in March 2005, emphasis had been placed on means to translate the Agenda’s conclusions into action. As part of this process, the Madrid Agenda had been presented in different places around the globe, including in Brussels and in Santiago, Chile in April 2005. A large conference was planned in Washington, D.C. in September 2005. He stressed the underlying conviction highlighted in the report, namely that terrorism had to be confronted through democratic means.


Delivering the keynote address, EU Commissioner Franco Frattini, praised the Madrid Agenda and noted that the Commission was considering the document closely. He noted the high degree of overlap between the Madrid Agenda and the Commission’s plans, particularly with respect to the importance of democracy and fundamental freedoms. “There can be no freedom without security and no security without freedom,” Commissioner Frattini said.  The fight against terrorism was a continuous process and had to be upheld by all Member States. The Commission was committed to working with civil society groups, such as the Club de Madrid as these could help to counterbalance the threat terrorism posed to democratic life through the raising of awareness among European citizens. Citizens had to be made aware of the threat to civil liberty that terrorist activity represented. Thus, a good communication strategy was “one of the most important tools at our disposal.” This included informing citizens of the activities of law enforcement and politics with respect to counter-terrorist activity, but also included aid for the victims of terrorism and the introduction of programmes and policies geared toward protecting young people from terrorist recruitment efforts.


Europe, which had experienced war and terrorism, had to protect its democratic rights and fundamental freedoms by tackling the “dictator of the 21st century” – terrorism – from all angles because it threatened human life and dignity. He expressed his “absolute support” for the adaptation of the definition of terrorism formulated by the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in December 2004. The European Commission was committed to a comprehensive approach to fighting global terrorism and upholding collective security.


The EU’s accomplishments in the fight against terrorism


The Commissioner went on to detail concrete counter-terrorism measures already introduced and planned by the European Commission. The Commission attached high importance to the long-term strategy to tackle root causes of terrorism, formulated by the Council. A Communication on Violent Radicalisation and Terrorist Recruitment by the Commission was soon to be published as a contribution to this strategy. October 2004 had seen the adoption of number of a Communications on Preparedness, Prevention and Response, which complemented the Communication on the financing of terrorist activities. The Union had also made progress in securing containers at ports and airports and controlling the trafficking of explosives on which the Commission would present a Communication in a few months’ time. The Commission was also committed to mainstreaming counter-terrorism efforts into external relations, including information and intelligence sharing. Following a request by the European Parliament and the provision of a budget of 1 million euro, the Commission was now running a pilot project to help the victims of terrorism. Protecting rights of the most vulnerable and upholding the Union’s fundamental rights were key elements of the Hague Action Plan. The protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism was paramount to the Commission: “Human Rights protection is not an after-thought in the fights against terrorism but an integral aspect of it.”


Panel I: The Madrid Agenda at the European Level


John Palmer praised the progress that was being made on the EU-level. He agreed with the Commissioner that at the heart of the fight against terrorism lay the sometimes-difficult balance between finding adequate means to respond to a terrorist threat while upholding and strengthening Europe’s democratic values.


Antonio Vitorino highlighted five key issues, which had emerged in that morning’s expert discussion. Regarding the root causes of terrorism, the experts had agreed that a better understanding of radicalisation and recruitment measures was needed. At the same time, one had to realize that policy makers could not allow any single group to be stigmatised. He agreed with Commissioner Frattini that an international definition of terrorism was of the essence. Secondly, a greater degree of information sharing was necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. This necessitated the building of mutual-trust over the long-term and on a daily basis. Intelligence cooperation needed to be more efficient and increasingly based on direct dialogue not only between law enforcement agencies and intelligence services but should also include a dialogue with civil society and human rights organizations. Thirdly, the meeting had underlined the importance of enhancing networking abilities within European civil society. On the balance between security and civil liberties, the expert group had agreed that there was a need for greater protection of defendants’ rights in criminal proceedings. Means of controlling the use of modern technology to spread terrorist thought were also discussed. Finally, the complexity of terrorist financing had been raised, including the link between terrorism and organized crime. Mr. Vitorino agreed with Commissioner Frattini that more needed to be done for the victims of terrorism – they needed to be given a voice. The EU should focus on capacity-building and fostering organizations that represented victims.


Mary Robinson thought it was unfortunate that  the Madrid Summit had not taken place immediately following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, as the “sentiment of cohesiveness” that abounded then would have prevented the unilateral response consequentially chosen by the United States, which largely curtailed civil liberties in the name of “the war on terror.” She hoped it was not too late to find the right balance between the preservation and strengthening of civil liberties and means to aggressively counter-act terrorist activities. Acts of terrorism were “inimical” to human rights, she said. She was saddened by the fact that the unacceptability of torture had been voided of its meaning post-9/11. Overall, the human rights agenda had not been sufficiently realized. While the World Trade Organisation successfully formulated global trade rules that held market-players accountable, the United Nations and its body of international law to protect the civil liberties and human rights of all individuals wielded no such power. More effective means to study root causes were necessary to avoid the seemingly impenetrable cycle of resentment and dissatisfaction turning into fodder for terrorist recruiters to exploit. There was also a need for greater inter-cultural dialogue, she said, referencing a meeting she was organizing between Muslim women and women from the Americas. Much more of this type of direct dialogue was needed to dispel existent myths. On the means to revitalize democracy, Ms. Robinson said “we must scale up our seriousness of purpose if we want to make the world a safer place.”


Panel II: Security, democracy and human rights – Finding the right EU policy mix to counter terrorism


Opening the second panel, Chairman Petre Roman said that a general definition of terrorism was of the essence to carry the global fight against such activity forward.


Jean-Marie Cavada, joined Mr. Vitorino’s earlier warnings that targeting a particular group in the wider fight against terrorism could provoke stigmatisation and xenophobia. “The Koran is not responsible for terrorism,” he said.  The Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament was committed to upholding and strengthening the fundamental rights aspect of the fight against terrorism. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights was particularly important in this respect. The European Parliament was also committed to crafting legislation that affirmed democratic principles, as “democracy is the enemy of terrorism” and wanted to promote a greater harmonization of national counter-terrorist measures. Interoperability of different European systems needed to be guaranteed to underpin transparent legislation against terrorism.


He argued passionately for the European Constitution, as a means to give the Parliament greater weight in crafting legislation in the Justice and Home Affairs area. Through the use of Qualified Majority Voting and co-decision by the Parliament, decision-making could be made at once more efficient and more accountable. It could reinforce political cohesion on various different levels of EU governance. The Parliament also needed greater budgetary resources to play a more effective role in understanding root causes and formulating anti-terrorist legislation. This meant that the Parliament needed to stand its ground with respect to the Council negotiations on the Financial Perspectives 2007-2013. He agreed with previous speakers that international counter-terrorist measures were impeded by the lack of a common definition of terrorism. Intelligence and information sharing within the Union and with third countries needed to be encouraged and made practically viable. New circumstances had to be created under which victims could be aided appropriately. He called on European and Member State institutions to be more transparent with regards to their counter-terrorist measures and underlined the need for a more active dialogue with citizens to assuage fears that the human rights dimension might be suffering as a result of more stringent policy measures. Only openness would help defeat the fear of terrorism.


Gilles de Kerchove agreed that European institutions were above all committed to creating policies that generated a maximum degree of efficiency and protection against terrorist attacks, while upholding fundamental rights and civil liberties. The Council focused its work on three main areas: implementation, mutual recognition and data retention. It was working on implementing mutual recognition in judicial cooperation, proposed first at the 1999 Tampere Summit, and the ‘availability of information’ principle agreed at the Hague Summit in November 2004. These new tools were needed to enhance the European Union’s action against terrorism. He praised the creation of the European Border Agency and the extension of the work of Europol and Eurojust as well as the Union’s new capability to enter into international agreements with other countries, such as the agreement with the US on facilitating the extradition of terrorist suspects. Mutual recognition required a high level of confidence between judges throughout Europe and the Commission had made interesting proposals in that respect.


Now, the Union needed to direct its work toward increasing the trust between magistrates and on creating legislative proposals on justice in absentia. Regarding the principle of availability of criminal intelligence, Mr. De Kerchove said, “this will completely change relations between Member States.” The interoperability between different European IT systems had to be guaranteed for this to be functional, he cautioned: EuroDac, the Schengen and Visa Information Systems had to be able to talk to one another.


He underlined the sensitivity of data tracking, tracing and retention. The US was pushing the EU to legislate firmly on these matters, but Mr. de Kerchove was sceptical about whether the EU would legislate to the detriment of a defendant’s rights. With respect to agreements with third countries on mutual legal assistance and extradition he noted that the EU had been able to promote its values in these negotiations. By insisting on the fact that it would not allow extradition to a country in which a suspect could face the death penalty, the European Union had fuelled the fundamental debate on the future of the death penalty raging in the US. In achieving a sound balance of civil liberties versus effective counter-terrorism measures, the Constitutional Treaty held many of the necessary instruments: the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; the increase of legislative areas under co-decision with the European Parliament; the extension of the competence of the European Court of Justice in the field of criminal justice and the right of the Union to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights.


Closing Remarks


In her closing remarks, Kim Campbell underlined that the focus of the Madrid Agenda had been how to promote collaboration between democracies to counter the threat of terrorism. The Madrid Agenda had stressed the importance of implementation and the EU, with its integrated institutional structure could do much to turn wider plans into functional policy. The panellists taking part in the Madrid Conference in May 2005 had not been asked to come to a consensus in their individual sessions – merely to highlight where fundamental principles existed. She echoed other participants’ views by noting “terrorism can only be fought in the context of human rights and the rule of law.” She hoped that the type of discussions held in Madrid could contribute to the development of legislation on the European level.

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