EU must take counter-terror decisions after ‘wasting too much time’: France
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday urged the EU to take urgent counter-terrorism decisions after having “wasted too much time”, as he entered emergency talks following the Paris attacks.
“We hope that Europe, which has wasted too much time on a number of urgent issues, today takes the decisions that we must take,” Cazeneuve told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
France proposed the emergency meeting after last week’s suicide and gun attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead, the worst such massacre on French soil.
Interior ministers from the 28-nation bloc are set to tighten checks on all travellers, including its own citizens, at the external borders of the passport-free Schengen zone, EU officials said.
Schengen has come under scrutiny following the revelations that some of the Paris attackers came from Belgium, and that alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud may have come back from fighting with IS in Syria to take part.
Most EU citizens enjoy passport-free travel throughout the Schengen zone of 22 EU countries, plus non-EU Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
“There is a clear link between security of the external borders, the EU’s external borders, and security within the EU,” British interior minister Theresa May told reporters.
“That’s why it’s important that the measures we have already agreed (like the setting up of migrant registration ‘hotspots’) are implemented,” she said.
The EU is deploying teams to Greece and Italy — where hundreds of thousands of people have arrived by sea this year — to help determine whether new arrivals are refugees fleeing war or persecution, or economic migrants simply seeking a better life.
However, EU sources also concede extremists could enter any the EU’s external borders.
One of the draft conclusions for Friday’s meeting calls on Frontex, the EU border agency, to “work closely with Europol and Eurojust, in particular in the context of the hotspots, and exchange data with Europol” on the exchange of personal data.
France is also pushing for the EU to agree on a US-style Passenger Name Record (PNR) system, which involves collecting EU passenger data, by the end of the year.
The plan is controversial in Europe due to concerns over how to protect personal information while fighting terrorism and serious crime.
The meeting will also focus on the question of firearms security and the reinforcement of controls at external borders.