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19th Aug 2019

EU ministers to urge better anti-terror coordination

  • Belgian soldiers and EU flags at half-mast outside the European Commission. Interior ministers will say more has to be done against terrorism. (Photo: Eric Maurice)

EU interiors ministers will call on Thursday (24 March) for better coordination of anti-terrorism efforts and fuller use of existing legal instruments.

They will meet in Brussels for an extraordinary meeting two days after attacks in Brussels killed 32 people and left around 300 injured, according to the latest figures.

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Ministers will not take new decisions but will publish a declaration to express their support for Belgium and list what should be done better.

They were in talks on Wednesday evening to get the backing of the European Commission and the European Parliament for the ministers' declaration, an EU source told EUobserver.

The declaration will include calls for a quick activation of the air passenger name record (PNR), the source said.

A directive to launch an EU-wide PNR was adopted by member states last December but it has still to be adopted by parliament.

On Wednesday, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove and the French prime minister Manuel Valls urged parliament to vote for the PNR.

"The European Parliament must fully show its commitment in the fight against terrorism," Valls said at a press conference with Juncker in Brussels.

The Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said on Wednesday that the issue should not become a "European soap opera".

'Trust each other'

Ministers will also renew calls for more intelligence sharing and use of EU databases like the Schengen information system or Europol's database.

They will insist on the use of the European Counter Terrorism Centre that was inaugurated in January.

Member states were encouraged on Wednesday to do so and to "trust each other'" by the EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

In line with previous decisions and declarations, ministers will say that control of the EU's external borders must be stepped up, in particular with systematic checks including for EU citizens entering the passport-free Schengen area.

The last measure was agreed in November at a similar extraordinary meeting called after the Paris attacks that killed 131 people.

In a series of meetings in November and December, France pushed for new steps against terrorism, including the PNR, enhanced checks at borders and new rules against the financing of terrorism.

Since Tuesday's attacks in Brussels, French leaders have renewed calls for more European action.

In Brussels on Wednesday, for a visit that was planned before the attacks, French PM Valls said that terrorists had attacked "Europe as a whole".

"A war has been declared to us, our determination must be total," he told journalists with Juncker standing next to him.

He called for a "European security pact" that would be completed by a "European defence able to intervene on external theatres".

"Member states must massively invest in security systems. In staff, in equipment, in technologies," he said.

Valls also met Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, but no Franco-Belgian common proposal was put forward ahead of the interior ministers' meeting.

According to the Financial Times, the ministers will also ask for an easier access to "digital evidence". Telephone and internet providers would be required to hand over information about suspects' communications to authorities.

The measure was included in a controversial anti-terror law passed in France after the Charlie Hebdo killings last year but has so far not been discussed at EU level.

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