European countries sign up to anti-terror measures in Riga

Take note – story published 7 years ago

Seventeen European countries, including Latvia, plus the European Union signed up Thursday in Riga to a Council of Europe agreement designed to combat the threat of “foreign terrorist fighters” travelling from Europe to take part in conflicts elsewhere.

The new protocol amends existing legislation to make a number of acts illegal including “travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism”, “receiving training for terrorism” and “organizing or otherwise facilitating travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism,” which explicitly includes providing funding to terrorist groups.

At a signing ceremony held at the Latvian Foreign Ministry, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland said the protocol had been put together in record time of just seven weeks because of the serious threat posed by foreign fighters.

“Rarely has such a treaty received such unanimous support from the beginning... all of this shows our commitment to send a positive signal to all would-be terrorists: Europe is closing in, we are not waiting for you, we are coming for you,” Jagland told assembled officials.

However, several legal hurdles remain to be jumped before the protocol comes into effect. It must now be ratified by individual national parliaments and only after six Council of Europe members have done so will it have legal force.

The process is likely to take months, if not years.

Also giving an oration at the ceremony was Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics who managed to secure €63,000 from state funds after volunteering to host the event in Latvia even though Bosnia Herzegovina currently holds the rotating presidency of the organization.

"The additional protocol will from now on be known as the Riga Protocol," Rinkevics said, making a play for posterity.

However, he admitted in a later press conference that the protocol would give no help in prosecuting Latvian and other "foreign fighters" fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine against the Ukrainian government.

"Currently there have not been resolutions of international organizations that describe separatist groups who are fighting in eastern Ukraine as terrorist organizations... so technically at this stage while there is not any internationally recognized terrorist groups or forces fighting in Ukraine, this provision wouldn't be applicable," Rinkevics told the press.

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