Portugal and Spain to share terrorism intelligence

PORTUGAL’S Minister for Home Affairs, Daniel Sanches, met this week with his Spanish counterpart, José Alonso Suarez, to exchange lists of terrorist suspects and to implement a system for the prevention of arms trafficking and the theft of explosives.

During the meeting, which took place at the offices of the Civil Governor of Faro, the two gave priority to the subject of combating the terrorist activities of ETA and Islamic-based international terrorism. “We consider the war against terrorism to be a priority and, therefore, have decided that our two countries should exchange information,” said the Portuguese Minister at a joint press conference following the meeting. “I would like to thank the Portuguese government for steadfastly supporting Spain in the fight against ETA,” said José Alonso Suarez.

The creation of a system to prevent arms trafficking and the theft of explosives was one of six measures discussed at the meeting, and the ministers have announced that these meetings should now take place at least every three months. The two ministers also decided to create joint teams to control illegal immigration and the trafficking of people from Africa. “There is a similar view, held by our two countries, in relation to the issue of immigration,” said Daniel Sanches. The issues of border and police controls were also discussed.

Shared border control opens

During the morning, the two ministers inaugurated a shared border control point, next to the international bridge which separates the Algarve from Andalucia. This is the fourth and last point of its kind to be opened in accordance with the border control agreement made between the two countries in November 1997. The four shared control points which were set up in Tui, Vilar Formoso, Caia and now at the international Guadiana Bridge, form a communication link between the police on both sides of the border.

During the opening ceremony, Sanches stated that the shared control points “signify an important step in the war against illegal immigration”. He also commented that he hoped to see closer co-operation between the two police forces in the near future. “This is currently being studied,” he said. “Co-operation between the two peninsular states was never made into a formal agreement, but assistance from both sides has been triggered by particular needs and circumstances on an informal basis.”

The Portuguese minister agreed that the major challenge for both countries was “to assure both freedom and safety for its citizens”. He also underlined that this was the first meeting between the two countries’ ministers since the March 11 Madrid train bombing. Sanches took the opportunity to compliment the Spanish people on their “dignity, serenity and determination” on dealing with the atrocity.

The shared border control office is situated in Portugal and has systems in place to detect fake documents from both countries. According to the director of Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF), Gabriel Catarino, there will be 10 inspectors serving at the new post, working on a shift basis.