National Security Council meets to discuss plan for fighting terrorism

Станислав Грос

Amidst all the hubbub surrounding the sacking of Health Minister Marie Souckova and the kidnapping of Czech journalists in Iraq, it may have gone unnoticed that the Czech National Security Council, which is headed by Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, met on Tuesday to discuss the measures that are in place to counter the potential threat of terrorist attacks in the Czech Republic.

One of the main decisions taken by the council was that the increased security measures that were introduced following the recent terrorist bombings in Madrid are to remain in place for the time being. This means that there will continue to be more frequent police patrols on the streets and on railway lines. Altogether, 2900 police will be taking part in these patrols. The security forces will also be keeping a close eye on over 2000 designated buildings and facilities around the country, which might potentially be the target of a terrorist attack.

The council also discussed the Czech Republic's National Action Plan for Fighting Terrorism. This plan was initiated in response to the September 11 attacks and was first approved in April 2002. Its measures are supposed to be annually reviewed and updated by the security council. Although the council approved the draft plan put forward on Tuesday, it admitted that it had been formulated before the bombings in Madrid and the subsequent Declaration on Combating Terrorism adopted by the European Council on March 26. Naturally, the plan will have to be redrafted to take account of these developments.

The principal concern of the current plan is to ensure that legislative shortcomings are addressed with regard to tackling the funding of terrorism. Specifically, the main problem is the fact that Czech law does not have the necessary wherewithal to deal with possible financial transactions between terrorists in this country. For example, this means that the security forces can't take simple measures such as freezing bank accounts in the Czech Republic, which it might suspect of being used to fund terrorism. Although the Ministry of Finance does have some powers for blocking accounts, these are primarily for cases of money-laundering and are not flexible enough to cover the financing of suspected terrorist organisations as well. The council also hopes to speed up the Czech Republic's ratification of UN conventions for suppressing the financing of terrorism.

Besides tightening up legislative loopholes, it has also been announced that a special task force has been set up to outline ways of improving the efficacy of the army and the security system in general. The task force is expected to be able to submit its findings by the end of this year