European Union
Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen
Statement on Phone Conversation with Attorney General Ashcroft
September 23, 2001

Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen engaged in a lengthy phone conversation yesterday afternoon with his American counterpart, Attorney General John Ashcroft, on the application of the conclusions of the special Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council held this week.

The two men had previously discussed the matter at length on 28 July when Mr Verwilghen visited Mr Ashcroft in Washington. At that meeting they decided to set up a working group to improve judicial cooperation between the United States and Belgium. During the Belgian EU Presidency this enhanced form of cooperation will be extended to include the entire EU.

The tragic events that took place in the United States will also serve to accelerate the implementation of the agreements already reached.

In this connection, it was agreed that the Belgian and US justice authorities will continue to collaborate fully. Highly practical agreements in this area have been concluded between the two countries, specifically an ongoing exchange of judicial information between the United States and Belgium, under the supervision of the justice minister. The United States and the European Union will exchange information between the Pre-Eurojust magistrates, in line with the decision taken by EU ministers on Thursday.

Attorney General John Ashcroft was especially interested in exchanging financial information involving possible terrorist organisations and their members.

CIF, the Belgian authority responsible for fighting money-laundering, has made direct contact with its American counterpart, FinCEN, with a view to rapidly setting up an enquiry and exchanging information.

At the European Justice and Ecofin Council to be held in Luxembourg on 16 October, Finance Minister Didier Reynders and Mr Verwilghen will take the appropriate decisions in this connection.

Mr Verwilghen described his telephone conversation with Mr Ashcroft as very fruitful, practical and promising.

Mr Ashcroft also said he was very pleased about his talks with Mr Verwilghen, who is President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council and his sole dialogue partner at European level.