EU plans to curb summit riots
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Senior European Union ministers are meeting to discuss ways to curb riots that have disrupted international conferences recently.
Friday's special session of interior ministers from the 15 member states was called in the wake of last month's rioting at the EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Street battles between police and anti-globalisation protesters marred the summit, sparking calls for better security coordination between the bloc's member states.
About 560 demonstrators were detained, more than 90 people were injured and damage was estimated at more than $4.1 million.
The EU already has measures in place aimed at preventing violent football hooligans from attending major sports events.
But diplomats said it would be difficult to use the same measures against political protesters without violating civil liberties.
The ministers' meeting in Brussels is likely to adopt conclusions that call for the use of existing rules on EU police and judicial cooperation. It is expected to allow member states to exchange information on known offenders.
The conclusions are also likely to call for Europol, the European law enforcement agency, to be involved in gathering intelligence and analysing the problem.
Member states with recent experiences of violent riots, including Sweden, will present reports on security.
Austria will report on the recent economic summit held in Salzburg, which also saw violent protests.
Italy will inform ministers about its security preparations ahead of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Genoa next week.
Pressure for tough measures against protesters has come primarily from Germany and its interior minister, Otto Schily.
But EU leaders are said to be anxious to avoid measures that would hinder the public's right to protest peacefully.
That would open the door to allegations that European governments -- already widely criticised as unresponsive to public opinion -- are violating human rights while condemning repressive measures elsewhere in the world.
Schily has proposed a European-wide computer databank to identify violence-prone activists and travel restrictions on those who have taken part in violent demonstrations.
EU sources said the proposals will be discussed at the Friday meeting.
Finland, Ireland and Greece are among the strongest critics of the Schily proposals, the sources said. France, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands are said to be undecided.
Any binding, EU-wide measures would require the consent of all 15 EU member governments.
The conclusions adopted by the ministers will take immediate effect and could be used in preparing the next EU summit in October in Ghent, Belgium.
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