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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Porous Borders Pose Threat For EU Crime Cooperation

BRUSSELS -- European Union interior and justice ministers meet Tuesday in a bid to plug gaps in security which threaten to make a border-free Europe a "Happy Hunting Ground" for terrorists and criminals. But in a sign of just how difficult the task has turned out to be, they are thought unlikely to be able to settle key problems over policing, border controls and extradition.

The need for agreement was given added urgency after a row between Spain and Belgium over the extradition of two suspected Basque guerrillas nearly sabatoged a border-free pact between seven of the EU's 15 members last month.

Diplomats said Monday that although ministers hoped to edge forward work on an EU convention which would simplify extradition procedures between EU members, final agreement was unlikely on Tuesday.

Spain was angered by the refusal of Belgium's top judicial authority to extradite a couple suspected of collaborating in an attack by the Basque Homeland and Freedom group, or ETA.

The fact that two people suspected of attacks in one country have walked free in another has shown how members' legal systems are out of synchronization.

The differences have emerged as some EU countries refuse to extradite people they consider to be wanted for political crimes, while others do not recognize the concept of political crimes at all.

Under a proposal under discussion on Tuesday, EU members would no longer be able to refuse extradition of a suspect on grounds that the crime was political, but only for a range of terrorism-related offenses. If progress on extradition is likely to be slight, diplomats said it is expected to be non-existent on a problem between Britain and its 14 EU partners preventing the EU's fledgling police agency becoming fully operational.