Brussels (Brussels Morning) In an online meeting today Friday, EU ministers responsible for internal security agreed to stricter application of existing rules to tackle terrorism through background checks on holders of firearms, more efficient cooperation among EU law enforcement agencies and general measures against radicalisation.
A proposal calling for the swift removal of online content linked to terrorism that would oblige internet platforms to do so within an hour of such postings is already in place. In the future, the Europol police support service, currently lacking in operational capacity, would be tasked with the analysis of large sets of both users’ metadata and encrypted data.
The release of a new EU counter-terrorism agenda is scheduled for December and new rules on migration are set to tackle some of the issues related to Islamist attacks that have been linked specifically to newly arrived immigrants.
A statement issued after today’s meeting reflected divided opinions within the ministerial group. In its condemnation of terrorism, the statement omitted all references to specific motivating factors that drive Islamist extremist attackers.
A first draft contained 15 references to Islam, and linked migration and terrorism, according to a report by Bloomberg. However, on what was fifth anniversary of the 13 November attack in Paris, EU ministers were cautious about the wording of the statement.
Horst Seehofer, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, speaking for the EU presidency, called for more action.
Given that the Nice attacker had just arrived in Europe weeks ahead, the need for more effective migrant control is evident, he said.
”We have to check the outer EU borders so that we can say with a clean conscious that we do not need inner borders…
We would not need the migration pact if it worked already”, he concluded.
Islam to embrace European values
Ahead of the ministerial meeting, European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement echoing views previously aired by France’s President Macron about a European Islam. Michel reiterated calls for clamping down on opaque foreign funding of Islamist extremism and Salafist content.
”The training given to imams practicing in Europe does not sufficiently take into account our fundamental values, in particular freedom of thought and gender equality”, he asserted. Michel said he would like to see an Islam that embraces European values and, with a view to this, has called on the EU to support training institutes for imams.
From January, the EU will deploy a European Border and Coast Guard mission at its external borders. Already this autumn, the border agency Frontex had been criticized for pushing migrants back at sea borders in the Mediterranean.
At formal entry points into the EU, information systems will finally be improved with a registry system that records all entries and exits by non-EU nationals. One difficulty continues to be cross-checking between systems, since some still don’t do biometric checks on a consistent basis, which enables illegal entry.