THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union's police agency signed a cooperation agreement Wednesday with a European network of special counterterror intervention units, a move that Europol's chief says will make the bloc's citizens safer.
Under the deal, the Atlas Network of units, which was established in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, will establish a permanent support office at the Europol headquarters in The Hague that will coordinate training exercises and development of special tools for the units.
Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said the new agreement will enhance cooperation among the specialized units.
"We see an increase of organized crime and we see an increase of terrorism, so it's important to have a very efficient adequate law enforcement response," she said. "We have different intervention units in the different countries. We work already together but what we will do now from Europol level is take the administrative burden."
Atlas chairman Bernhard Treibenreif said that the 2015 extremist attacks in Paris and subsequent arrest of suspects in Belgium highlighted the importance of cross-border cooperation among counterterror police units.
The signing ceremony took place amid a series of training exercises across Europe in which counterterror forces cooperated to tackle simulated attacks, hijacks and hostage-takings.
On a square outside the Europol headquarters, armed police assaulted a parked car and grabbed men playing the roles of extremists, while in Slovakia police stormed a fortress to free "hostages" being held by masked men.