European Commission completing plan to bolster WMD defenses

An action plan that seeks to strengthen European Union defenses against the threat of a WMD attack is being considered for enactment by the close of 2009, Europolitics Environment reported.

Sponsored by the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, the plan is composed of 113 measures that fall under three themes: stopping terrorist organizations from acquiring WMD materials; strengthening WMD detection efforts; and making sure that the European Union is able to respond quickly and effectively to any chemical, biological or nuclear attack.

It is expected to require $148 million to carry out the plan over four years beginning in 2010.

"The action plan is not a legal instrument, it's a political commitment," Patrick Dietz, policy officer for the commission's Justice, Freedom and Security Directorate General, said at an Oct. 14 conference on bioterrorism.

The European Union was chastised at the event for its perceived lack of readiness for an act of bioterrorism.

"There's no convention in Europe on emergency countermeasures for a bio attack," said Emergent BioSolutions Senior Vice President Allen Shofe.

While lauding the commission's action plan, Shofe said that working with European governments has been difficult and that there has not been enough effort made in readying for a disease-based strike.

"You've got to have a holistic plan," he said.

While EU states would retain the majority of responsibility in defending themselves individually against unconventional weapons, the commission has said its members should pursue greater collaboration and better information flow.

Additional work is necessary in improving cooperation between the public health and security sectors, Dietz said.