Italy ups security after Brussels

Italy calls for EU security agency as ministers gather in summit

(ANSA) - Rome, March 24 - Security measures have been stepped up at underground and railway stations, airports, monuments and tourist sites across Italy following the terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday that left 32 confirmed dead and injured 300.
    Security measures have been beefed up in Rome ahead of the Easter weekend, when Pope Francis will lead ceremonies usually attended by tens of thousands across the city. Rome Prefect Franco Gabrielli said there were plans to introduce metal detector tests at metro stations. In Milan, Prefect Alessandro Marangoni has said all railway and underground stations need extra attention, while in Florence more checks are planned at the airport and areas around tourist sites. In Bologna, surveillance has increased at all sensitive areas, including the central train station and the airport.
    Several southern Italian airports have introduced new security measures. In Catania in Sicily, only people with an airplane ticket are being allowed into the Fontanarossa airport.
    Palermo airport has strengthened security with sniffer dogs and extra external controls. In Calabria, Lamezia Terme's airport has requested army back-up for its security.
    Meanwhile in Venice, regional councillor Alberto Villanova has proposed banning pedestrians from wearing helmets or any form of head wear that makes it difficult to be identified, including traditional Muslim attire such as the niqab face-covering veil. Also on Thursday, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano announced the creation of a national plan to prevent the radicalization of disaffected Muslim youth. This will stop "a seed being planted that will produce poisoned fruit in the future," he said on his way in to an extraordinary summit of EU interior and justice ministers in Brussels to agree on concerted moves to fight the terror threat.
    "Terrorism is fast and Europe is often slow," Alfano added.
    Also in Brussels, Justice Minister Andrea Orlando said Italy has the resources to contain terrorism. "Italy's judiciary, intelligence and police forces are of the highest level," he said. The minister also recalled that Italy has one of the most advanced anti-terrorism laws in Europe, which criminalises conduct in support of terrorist activity. In addition, the country has "given itself the national anti-terrorism prosecutor's office," Orlando said. "We haven't underestimated the danger or the risks," he continued, adding that the "crucial and strategic" aim remains stronger coordination between the national police, intelligence services and judicial authorities of the various countries. In the meantime "we must strengthen all channels of cooperation and also adapt our domestic legislation," he said.
    Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni earlier in the day called for the creation of a European intelligence service to combat the threat of Islamist terrorism. He said that while the EU appointed an anti-terror chief in the wake of the 2004 Madrid attack, it failed to set up a supporting intelligence service with agents on the ground.
    Italian Premier Matteo Renzi is leading a push for greater integration of EU security and defence policy to ward off Islamist terror attacks, the Financial Times said Thursday.
    Renzi "has positioned himself as a leading proponent of those calling for more integration as the solution. A common defence and security policy was now necessary for the EU, he said, speaking after the attacks on Tuesday," the FT said. But it said "Mr Renzi's proposals are unlikely to go far; Britain, in particular, is staunchly opposed to a common EU defence policy, but many of his counterparts in Europe echo his frustration, and the need for the EU as an organisation to show political will on security," it said. The article, entitled latest Attacks Revive Push For Collective Response On Security, ended by quoting an anonymous top former British counterterror official as saying that the fundamental problem in Europe "is the way in which intelligence work has often failed to translate into good policing".