France, Belgium vow to jointly step up fight against terrorism

The prime ministers of France and Belgium vowed Monday to join forces in cracking down even harder on terrorism almost three months after deadly attacks in Paris that featured links to both of the neighbouring countries.

"We are at war against terrorism. And to carry out this war, we have to be united," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after talks in Brussels between top Belgian and French judicial officials. "The question is not if we will be hit again, but where and when."

"Zero risk does not exist," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel added. "We are standing side by side and we are determined to face up [to terrorism], to increase the level of security for our citizens, to fight against fanaticism."

The two sides agreed, among other things, to step up intelligence exchanges, carry out joint control operations on roads and railroads, boost judicial cooperation, strengthen counter-terrorism work with internet and telephone providers, better counter radicalization and jointly attempt to boost "not sufficient" European efforts.

Paris and Brussels also underlined the importance of reinforcing controls at the European Union's external borders, pointing to the challenges posed by migrant flows.

Some of the men who carried out the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris are suspected of having used those flows to move in Europe. At least 10 attackers are believed to have simultaneously targeted a concert hall, football stadium, cafes and bars in the French capital, killing 130 people and injuring hundreds. The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility.

Michel and Valls swept aside suggestions that either country should be blamed for failing to prevent the attacks.

"We know that in our neighbourhoods - this is true in Belgium and this is true in France - we face radicalization movements that can concern hundreds or thousands of people. So it's out of the question to give each other lessons," the French leader said.

Michel spoke of "a new form of danger in Europe," with terrorists better trained and hidden.

"Our duty is not to succumb to anxiety, to fear, not to fall in the trap of the terrorists, but at the same time to increase our security level," Michel said in an interview granted with Valls to the RTL broadcaster. "We have the will to see how we can do more, do better."

Last update: Tue, 12/07/2016 - 14:17

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