Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

Europe at risk of 'huge number' of returning jihadist fighters

  • Italian interior minister Alfano (c) announced the end of the Mare Nostrum sea rescue operation (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU is planning to step up border checks and passport controls to counter the threat of returning jihadist fighters.

“We may be faced soon with returns, huge returns from Syria and Iraq,” the EU’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, told reporters in Luxembourg on Thursday (9 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said the US-led airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) in Syria could prompt European nationals fighting alongside the jihadists to go back home.

“Airstrikes give incentive for more returns and therefore we have to be ready now to detect returns and be prepared”.

Kerchove, EU interior ministers and home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom met in Luxembourg to address the emerging security threat.

Speaking alongside Kerchove, Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said: “The key issue is that we really need to step up border controls at our external borders.”

Initiatives include getting a controversial EU PNR (Passenger Name Records) bill in place before the end of the year.

The European Commission’s proposal for surveillance of internal EU flights has been stuck in the European Parliament for the past two years due to privacy issues.

Ministers are also interested in systematic electronic checks of documents - instead of the more standard visual checks - of EU citizens leaving and entering the passport-free Schengen zone.

The checks would link up national police databases, the Schengen Information System (an EU-wide criminal database), and Interpol resources.

Kerchove noted that some EU member states, including France, Germany, and the UK, are also drawing up legislation to confiscate returning fighters’ passports.

The border control plans are not limited to stopping the movement of fighters between the EU, Iraq, and Syria.

End of Mare Nostrum

Irregular immigration is also part of the extra security mix, with Italy's Alfano announcing the imminent end of Italy’s naval search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum.

The Mediterranean Sea operation is credited with saving almost 100,000 boat migrants' lives since the beginning of the year.

But it will be phased out entirely as the EU’s smaller Triton mission gets ready to start in November.

“We always said we would close down Mare Nostrum once Europe did its share. We now can feel Europe is doing its share,” Alfano said.

Meanwhile, an internal EU document, which outlines the ministerial conclusions to be published on Friday, urges member states to make sure irregular migrants' fingerprints “are taken on land, immediately upon apprehension”.

It calls for more bilateral co-operation with migratory transit countries in north Africa and the Middle East.

The document notes all efforts should be made to work with Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya to curtail “the supply of vessels from Tunisia and Egypt”. It also proposes joint-police operations to stop human trafficking.

Refugee quotas?

Closer to home, member states are being asked to make better use of a policy that requires point-of-entry member states to take charge of asylum requests.

Those who are processed either remain in the member state of arrival or are resettled internally. Around 75 percent of all asylum seekers end up either in Italy, Sweden, Germany, UK, or France.

“There are many countries in the European Union today who receive basically no refugees or asylum seekers,” said EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmstrom.

The EU document notes that use of relocation should remain voluntary.

But the lack of solidarity from other member states has caused annoyance, with some calling upon a system of quotas.

Germany, for its part, is pushing for a quota system based on population size.

“We have to agree on the quotas, for example by population size. Then we would have to ensure that those countries that are over their quota get some relief,” said Germany’s interior minister Thomas de Maizere.

Internet giants discuss jihad with EU ministers

Senior officials from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft met with EU interior ministers and officials at a dinner in Luxembourg on how to counter jihadist propaganda.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  2. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  3. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  4. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  5. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls
  6. Italy defies EU deadline on changing budget
  7. Report: FBI looking into Brexiteers Farage and Banks
  8. Italian journalist unions protest 5MS 'whores' jibe

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  2. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  3. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  4. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  5. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  6. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  7. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  8. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us