After receiving a nod from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Palestinian Authority opened three new police stations across the West Bank on Tuesday. The newly added stations mean that 12 out of the proposed 20 police centers in the West Bank are now open - part of an agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, according to Jose Vericat, Press Officer for the EU Police Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (Eupol Copps). Eupol Copps was launched by the European Council, and falls under the direct jurisdiction of Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Vericat attended a ceremony on Tuesday for the opening of a police station in Kufr Tholth, near Qalqilia, and described the new stations as "a small step in the right direction." "In this area, there has been a problem of family rivalries, resulting in violence. Since 2000, it's been pretty much out of control," Vericat said. "Eupol Copps financed the opening of this station, providing everything from office furniture to electrics. This station covers 25,000 people, and will have 30 police officers, half of them armed," he added. The one vehicle in service for the station "is insufficient," Vericat said. "Palestinian police need to have freedom of movement so they can deploy officers and maintain law and order," he added. Asked if the new stations would help the PA consolidate its rule in the face of Hamas's challenge to its sovereignty, Vericat said, "our purpose is more basic than that. We're looking to build a police force that is politically neutral, one which is community-based. One which can serve the average, everyday Palestinian." The absence of a civil police force has left a vacuum in the Palestinian territories, Vericat said, which has been filled my gunmen from various armed faction. "The Palestinians need a civil police to deal with all crimes ranging from murder to traffic offenses. In the past, it was the gunmen who were in control," he said. "We are trying to build a Palestinian civil society, and spread European standards of policing here."