Brussels attacks prompt new calls for EU to "get serious" on security

European Union governments are again under pressure to enhance security and intelligence cooperation, after the Brussels terror attacks.

The issue was already on the table following the November 13 Islamist strikes on Paris, but officials say it was not tackled decisively enough.

"It’s beyond time to get serious about security," EU Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in Brussels.

The commissioner blamed lack of shared intelligence as the reason why Paris attackers could not be stopped, even if "they were all somehow known to the local intelligence authorities."

Avramopoulos listed several priorities, including getting final European Parliament approval on European air passenger name records (PNR), tightening controls on firearms, and making greater recourse to EU police agency Europol to share counterterrorism information.

He also said Europe's Schengen zone, which allows border free travel across 26 nations, was "not the problem," but admitted that tighter controls were needed at its external frontiers, to screen people entering the free movement area.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was visiting Brussels, sent a similar call for decisive action.

"In the years to come, the [EU] member states should invest massively in their security systems. We need to act as well on the European level, beginning with the cooperation between the member states," he said after meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Valls spoke of "an unequaled threat, a threat that is going to last," which will need to be confronted "at every level, diplomatically and militarily."

Singling out draft PNR proposals - which have stalled for years due to concerns about data privacy - the French premier said the database was at once a "tool and a symbol."

"It's a tool that is indispensable and could have perhaps allowed us to intercept a number of individuals if it had existed [...] so we need this tool. It is also a symbol that the European Parliament is totally engaged in the fight against terrorism," he said.

EU interior ministers were going to be summoned soon in Brussels to discuss how to move forward, Avramopoulos said, stressing the need for governments to be "determined and resilient not only in rhethoric but also in taking the necessary initiatives."

Hours later, the Dutch Presidency of the EU said the talks would take place at 4 pm (1500 GMT) Thursday.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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