BERLIN European police officials have agreed to boost coordination and expand counterterrorism efforts to fight a growing network of Islamist militants, Europe's police agency and German authorities said on Thursday.
Nearly 100 police chiefs from European Union member countries, Norway and Switzerland agreed to boost cooperation during a two-day meeting in Berlin on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a statement by Europol and the German hosts.
"Europe is facing the most serious terrorist threat for over 10 years," Europol Director Rob Wainwright said. "The increasing transnational nature of terrorist groups and their activities demand ever closer collaboration between relevant law enforcement authorities across Europe."
"Today's terrorists are extremely mobile," said Holger Muench, head of Germany's Federal Crime Office (BKA). "We can only be successful in the fight against terrorism if all European security authorities work closely together and are coordinated by a central body."
Police officials will now set up an operational steering board at Europol's European Counter Terrorism Centre in The Hague that will include the leaders of the national agencies' counterterrorism agencies, according to the statement.
They also agreed to create ad-hoc cross-border teams that could quickly develop response plans and measures to fight terrorism, the statement said.
Recent Islamist attacks in Europe, including the one that killed 12 people at a Berlin Christmas market in December, highlighted the need for better coordination and more rapid exchange of information, officials said.
The failed Tunisian asylum seeker who ploughed a truck into the Berlin market was killed in Italy after fleeing through the Netherlands and France. Swiss authorities also got involved because of his visits and connections to Islamist groups there.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Heneghan)