As Terror Threat Rises, EU to Strengthen Border Patrols

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Berlin, Germany ( - Europe plans to introduce tighter border controls in the coming weeks in a bid to block illegal migration, identified by the United States as a major risk factor in terrorism threat here.

German Federal Interior Minister Dr. Wolfgang Sch?uble said the country is using its presidency of the E.U. to improve operational capability of Frontex, the European Border Management Agency, to tighten security at the bloc's external borders.

The agency will be expanded to comprise up of 450 experts drawn from all 27 E.U. member states, and permanent coast patrols network will operate in the Mediterranean and Atlantic from late May.

"Today we have succeeded in making another important step to protect the common external sea frontiers in the south," Sch?uble said.

The State Department has voiced concerns that Germany's open borders with its European neighbors and the illegal immigration into some of these countries will facilitate the entry of terrorist groups into the country.

Late last week, the United States embassy here and the German government issued terrorist alerts. The embassy cautioned Americans here be extra vigilant, saying new intelligence reports indicated an increased possibility of terror attacks in Germany.

The embassy said the terror threat was linked to German's participation in the NATO military mission in Afghanistan. (Germany opposed the Iraq war and did not deploy forces there.)

The embassy directive came days after the E.U. Police Office said in a report that terrorism poses a greater threat than ever to Europe's security.

NATO in the past week also said the possibility of Europe facing increased terrorist attacks, including attacks involving missiles, had increased.

Islamic extremists have threatened Germany because of its decision to participate in NATO operations in Afghanistan, even though German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul stresses that the mission's focus is not military confrontation with the Taliban but political, social, and economic reconstruction.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said it sees no need for extra security measures in Germany. The current level of security is already very high, said BKA President Joorg Ziercke. While the "abstract" danger posed to Germany by Islamists has increased, it has not reached a level comparable to that facing the U.S. or Britain, he said.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai recently said all 26 NATO countries agree that Europe faces increased terrorism including a missile threat.

For this reason, he said, the region supports U.S. plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar scanners in the Czech Republic, a move heavily criticized by Russia.

"Allies all agree a threat from ballistic missiles exists," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

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