EU members push for tighter EU border controls after Paris killings

As France put troops on the streets, Hungary's prime minister called for Europe to close its doors to immigration and EU ministers agreed to consider changing passport-free travel rules

EU members push for tighter EU border controls after Paris killings

World Bulletin/News Desk

The European Union wants governments and security forces to work more closely together to counter threats of violence like that in Paris last week, but cautioned on Monday against a hasty response.

As France put troops on the streets, Hungary's prime minister called for Europe to close its doors to immigration and EU ministers agreed to consider changing passport-free travel rules, the bloc's executive said enhancements to counter-terrorism cooperation were already in the works and called for urgent consultations on what further improvements can be made.

Quoting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a spokeswoman told a news briefing in Brussels on Monday that it was "first time for silence before action". She added: "Our actions should be grounded not in fear but on reflection."

Latvia, which holds the rotating chair of EU ministerial meetings, withdrew a suggestion for an urgent session this week of interior and justice ministers. It said it would now focus on preparing a meeting already scheduled for the end of this month that would make proposals to an EU leaders' summit on Feb. 12-13.

Juncker called last week for closer cooperation among national authorities, which control their own security with the EU limited to playing a coordinating role and maintaining a watch over states' legal obligations to respect human rights.

Among immediate measures, the Commission and some national governments will be urging the European Parliament this week to drop objections, citing privacy concerns, that have blocked a system for exchanging airline passenger data within the EU.

Years of debate on the Passenger Name Record (PNR) highlight the tensions between tighter controls on those suspected of planning violence and civil liberties, as well as mutual suspicions among member states on sharing intelligence data.

BORDER CHECKS

A number of EU interior ministers, as well as Commission officials and representatives of the United States and Canada, agreed in Paris on Sunday to a series of priorities that included pursuing efforts to prevent people in Europe being radicalised or travelling to train or fight in Syria.

Giving little detail, they also agreed to promote further coordination on intelligence, controlling weapons traffic and cooperation with Turkey and other neighbouring countries.

In a statement, the ministers said the rules of the Schengen area - which permits travel without passport checks in most of the 28-nation bloc - should be changed to allow for tighter control in some cases. However, the Commission spokeswoman said the priority for now was to encourage governments to use existing rules on sharing information on travellers to the full.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament added their voices on Monday to the debate about security. Some Eurosceptics said immigration lay behind the attacks and also questioned the EU's record in combating political violence.

"We do have, I'm sad to say, a fifth column that is living within our own countries that is utterly opposed to our values," said Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. "We're going to have to be a lot braver ... in standing up for our Judaeo-Christian culture."

French National Front leader Marine Le Pen asked: "Is the total opening of our borders a way to check fundamentalists?

"Have not austerity economic policies destroyed our capacity to respond, disarmed our police, our intelligence services and our army? ... Let nations defend themselves."

Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2015, 13:06
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