Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft at the
EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers Meeting
September 30, 2004
I am honored by the opportunity to join you today on this historic occasion -- an occasion that has brought together, for the first time ever, the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of all 25 Member States of the European Union.
It is also a great personal pleasure to be able to be here and to see so many old friends again. As I look around the room, I cannot help but recall how much you have done to assist the United States in the challenging years since September 11, 2001.
We meet at an important moment in the cause of justice.
What unites us today is a truly amazing ideal: We share the extraordinary belief of democratic nations that the first priority of government is to protect the lives and liberties of the people.
Under the United States Constitution, this duty-to protect both life and liberty-falls first to the more than 104,000 men and women of the United States Department of Justice. Through our components -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Marshals Service; and the U.S. Attorneys Offices -- the Justice Department is the chief law enforcement agency of the United States.
Since September 11, we all have faced grave challenges. But thanks to you, we are meeting those challenges together-not just in the war against terror, but also in the fight against crime. The FBI-and every other component of the Justice Department-has been strengthened by the durable ties that we have created.
Our international teamwork has made the United States Justice Department more effective than ever:
Most important, with your assistance, the United States has been able to prevent another major terrorist attack on American soil for more than three years.
During that period:
The Justice Department's ability to fulfill its duty to protect citizens from crime and terrorism stems directly from the friendships forged in the international justice community.
I am profoundly grateful for your help in this cause.
Of course, these past three years have also brought grim reminders of what is at stake in this mortal conflict. As the horrific bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004, demonstrated again, we face a common and ruthless terrorist enemy that will spare no nation, no man, no woman, and no child from its ideological hatred of freedom.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal sympathy to our Spanish colleagues here today.
The actions of the European Union since the mass murder in Madrid have reinforced our common values and our dedication to prevail in this cause together. Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal spoke for us all at the time:
"Terrorism is an absolute evil and before it there can be only one response: absolute determination, without doubts or hesitation."
The EU/U.S. Summit Declaration on Terrorism shows unequivocally the depth of the determination that has inspired us, and must continue to drive us forward. European Commission President Romano Prodi spoke eloquently on September 12, 2001: "We shall not allow terrorism to triumph. We shall not allow terrorism to divide the world, as its perpetrators intend it to. We shall deny them this victory."
Our work together since September 11 has turned President Prodi's noble words into concrete action. When I spoke before you two years ago in Copenhagen, I suggested that we had completed successfully the First Phase in adjusting to the post-September 11 world of transnational terrorism:
In the two years since our meeting in Copenhagen, we have accomplished many of our ambitious goals. Now we have completed a Second Phase in our united law enforcement efforts-a phase in which we have established improved mechanisms for cooperation and coordination.
First, we have negotiated agreements to permit sharing of counter-terrorism and criminal information with Europol. I am pleased today to announce that we will post an experienced FBI agent to our embassy in The Hague to serve as a liaison with Europol on counter-terrorism issues.
Second, we have renewed our commitment to work with Eurojust. As Eurojust evolves, we hope that it will serve as a vehicle for prosecutors from the United States and EU Member States to discuss "lessons learned" from our terrorism investigations and prosecutions.
Third, we have continued to strengthen our consultations and cooperation at every level. As part of the New Transatlantic Dialogue, our Justice and Foreign Ministries have met with the Council and Commission during each Presidency to forge stronger bonds of friendship and set out clear agendas for joint law enforcement and counter-terrorism action.
Fourth, we have recently created a new mechanism to address border and transportation issues: the Border and Transportation Security Dialogue. This Dialogue is chaired on the U.S. side by the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department. I am pleased that Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has joined us today and I would like to ask him to report to you on the Dialogue a little later.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, on June 25, 2003, I had the honor of signing two agreements with the EU on behalf of the United States: the mutual legal assistance and extradition agreements. Both agreements give us important new tools to combat terrorism, and fight transnational crime. I am deeply grateful that we will soon be signing a number of the bilateral instruments so necessary to bring these treaties into force.
What is the next phase of our cooperation?
I would suggest that there are three clear paths of action to bolster our shared vision of justice. In this regard, my thinking has been strongly influenced by our very useful discussions at the Informal Troika meeting last evening.
First, we must ensure that we "operationalize" our various agreements-by encouraging our law enforcement officials and prosecutors to make full use of all the tools now available to them. In particular, Europol and Eurojust provide us with mechanisms that our prosecutors and police agencies can use to improve exchanges of information. By placing an FBI and Secret Service agent to serve as liaison officers with Europol we will open new possibilities for closer cooperation in our priority law enforcement areas. By turning to Eurojust, we hope to bring together our experts from the U.S. Department of Justice and the EU to discuss issues ranging from "lessons learned" from prior terrorism prosecutions, to improving cooperation on terrorism financing, to building cyber crime enforcement capabilities. This group can also help move forward our common strategic priority of prevention by enhancing our capability to prosecute anticipatory offenses. Second, we must intensify our discussions regarding the sharing of information. Last evening, Minister Donner suggested that we think about three different categories of information that we need to address: law enforcement information; intelligence information; and border security information. This analysis is highly useful. Further, we already have in place mechanisms to focus our discussion on sharing information in these categories. With regard to law enforcement information, it is appropriate that we use the mechanisms of the established JHA Dialogue to seek to eliminate obstacles. As to intelligence information, it would be useful for our experts to meet under the auspices of Eurojust, bringing together our prosecutors and magistrates who present this information in court. As to information on border and transportation matters, it is appropriate that we channel our discussion into the Border and Transportation Security Dialogue.
Second, we must intensify our discussions regarding the sharing of information. Last evening, Minister Donner suggested that we think about three different categories of information that we need to address: law enforcement information; intelligence information; and border security information. This analysis is highly useful. Further, we already have in place mechanisms to focus our discussion on sharing information in these categories. With regard to law enforcement information, it is appropriate that we use the mechanisms of the established JHA Dialogue to seek to eliminate obstacles. As to intelligence information, it would be useful for our experts to meet under the auspices of Eurojust, bringing together our prosecutors and magistrates who present this information in court. As to information on border and transportation matters, it is appropriate that we channel our discussion into the Border and Transportation Security Dialogue.
The third course I would suggest as a way forward is to deepen our discussion regarding the causes of terrorism, a difficult topic with no easy conclusions. But there is one area in which we can all agree more work needs to be done, both for itself and for its possible links to terrorism. That area is official corruption and failed states.
Since my first overseas trip as attorney general to The Hague in 2001 to attend the Global Forum on Corruption, the importance of combating corruption has only increased.
Last year in Merida, Mexico, I had the privilege of signing on behalf of the United States the UN Convention Against Corruption. I was struck then by the words of The Honorable Ki Raitu Murungi, the Minister of Justice of Kenya, who explained why his country was combating corruption, quote: "[Corruption] has killed our children. It has destroyed our society. It is the fundamental cause of our high levels of poverty, unemployment and social backwardness. For us in Kenya, the fight against corruption is a matter of life and death. It cannot wait for tomorrow. The time is now."
The time truly is now.
I suggest that we charge our experts to sit together to review our technical assistance programs regarding corruption to ensure that we are working together effectively. As the UN Corruption Convention itself suggests, we can do great things when we work together.
Before I close, there is one point of personal privilege I would like to raise. Much of what we have done over the past years together has been the result of the work of outgoing EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino. I would like to take a moment to thank him for all that he has done to advance EU/U.S. understanding, and to present him this small token of our esteem.
I also would like to take a moment to pay tribute to someone who is no longer with us: Sir Adrian Fortescue, the first Director General for Justice and Home Affairs. Sir Adrian passed away this summer, but his commitment to strengthen US/EU relationships will not be forgotten.
I know that their work will be ably carried forward by the new EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, by Sir Adrian's successor -- Jonathan Faull -- and by Gys DeVries, the EU's new Terrorism Coordinator. I am pleased to have had the chance to work with them all, and with you, during these momentous and historic times.
And now I would like to call on Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson to address the Border and Security Dialogue.