Vienna, 21 July 2005 Press release

Winkler: "European Union has a central role to play in combating terrorism"


But liberties of the citizens of Europe must not be relinquished in the fight against terrorism

Vienna, 21 July 2005 - State Secretary Winkler's first statement before the Austrian Federal Council today was devoted to the subject of "Security in Europe".

"The events in Madrid and most recently in London have shown that we in Europe are not immune to terrorism either. The international community as a whole, the European Union, and every single individual state; we are all called upon to face and tackle the horrible phenomenon of international terrorism and organized crime", said Winkler.

"It is impossible bring this phenomenon under control at the purely national level. And the citizens are well aware of this too - that is why they are calling upon Europe and the international community to coordinate their actions for their protection. That is the right of all - and it is also our duty", emphasized the State Secretary. "Under no circumstances must we allow these irresponsible criminals to succeed in making us relinquish our democratic model of life, the fundamental freedoms of our citizens and the rule of law. We will not let the terrorists get away with such a victory. Our liberties are the supreme good of our democracy", he continued.

"The European Union has a very central role to play in combating terrorism. The cooperation between the competent Ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs, coordination with the Commission and the activities of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gijs de Vries are essential elements in this process", explained Winkler.

The State Secretary reported to the Federal Council on his talks with EU Coordinator de Vries in Brussels on Monday: "De Vries is also of the opinion that is it necessary to continue the inter-faith dialogue, particularly with Islam, in order that we can reach those who might otherwise fall prey to the militant enticements of the Islamist fanatics", said the State Secretary. "Austria already has experience and tradition in this respect. Foreign Minister Plassnik is therefore planning a conference of high-ranking personalities to be held before the end of this year, with the intention of promoting this Dialogue among Religions and Civilisations", he went on.

According to Winkler, the whole sphere of the European Union's external relations is of great importance in the context of the fight against terrorism. "A credible Common Foreign Policy which contributes to the resolution of conflicts that foster or breed terrorism is already in itself a contribution to combating terrorism. It is precisely here that we need more Europe - in an area where common experience and action really do create added value", underlined Winkler.

With regard to the international cooperation in this field, Winkler called for compliance with the total of twelve UN conventions against terrorism. "A thirteenth convention was completed just a short time ago, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Austria has already ratified all the existing conventions and we will also be putting our signature to the new one on the occasion of the Summit of Heads of State and Government this coming September", concluded the State Secretary.