EU ministers affirm “unshakeable unity” in countering terrorism

First Schengen Forum will take place on 30 November, the Commission said

Photo: EU Horst Seehofer.

At a video conference on Friday EU home affairs ministers discussed how to further strengthen their efforts to fight terrorism and also debated on different aspects of the pact on migration and asylum. “We affirm our unshakeable unity and solidarity in the fight against all forms of terrorism”, they said in a statement on the recent attacks in Europe.

Concerning stepping up the response to terrorism, the ministers focused on several items, which completely overlap with the conclusions of the mini-summit of the leaders of France, Austria, Netherlands, Germany and the presidents of European Council and the Commission, held virtually a few days ago.

They accented on practical measures for improving cooperation and the exchange of information between countries both within and outside the EU, reinforcing security checks at external borders and doing more to combat radicalization, being extremely vigilant concerning foreign fighters with EU passports returning to Europe, or leaving prison, and for rapid removing terrorist content online.

Talking at a news conference about the jount ministerial declaration, Horst Seehofer, German Federal Minister of the Interior, accented that the common values such as rule of law, freedom and plurality “is something on which we stand together and we defend”. He underlined that the fight against extremism whatever form it takes, will fully maintain all guarantees under the rule of law as well as fundamental freedoms.

Minister Seehofer also emphasised that this is not a fight against religion but it is against fanatical and violent extremism of any kind.

We have laid a good foundation in the past five years, taking a number of measures to enhance security and we have to put it more into practice, the minister said adding this is "a question of improving and optimising a number of things".

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson highlighted the need to “better share information, and share better information” across internal borders, stressing that in this respect Schengen Information System is central. Also Passenger Name Records have essential role to deter and detect terrorist suspects and EU countries should implement the PNR Directive.

On reforming of Schengen she said that the first Schengen Forum will take place on 30 November. She also plans to update the so-called Prüm decisions, to make it easier for law enforcement to exchange DNA, fingerprints and number plates. In future, possibly also photos and police records. For shifting towards systematic police partnerships, the Commission has started work on an EU police cooperation code.

The Commissioner explained that Member States need to work hard to achieve full interoperability by 2023. And as Europol is the backbone of European police cooperation, already this year, she will propose to reinforce Europol’s mandate so it can do an even better job at fighting crime and terror.

In July this year, Europol’s Internet Referral Unit took down 2,000 links to terrorist content, including tutorials on how to carry out an attack. Europol will continue to work with platforms who want to help. But voluntary cooperation is not enough, Commissioner Johansson stated adding that Member States need to be able to order the removal of terrorist content from any hosting service provider, irrespective of its place of establishment, with EU-wide effects, in one hour.

 

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