Paris, Berlin seek EU access to encrypted data in terrorism fight

European law enforcement agencies should be able to access encrypted messages on services such as Telegram, as part of efforts to fight terrorism, the interior ministers of France and Germany said Tuesday.

France in particular has been in the crossfire of Islamist extremists, with more than 200 people dying in several large-scale attacks over the last 20 months. Germany has also experienced recent Islamist-inspired attacks, although no civilians have been killed.

Online and mobile messaging services such as the Telegram app are thought to be a common form of communication for extremist groups, as they use encryption that makes it hard for police and judicial authorities to tap into their messages.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere asked the European Commission to look into drafting laws that would enable judicial access to encrypted messages on all platforms operating in the EU, even if they are based elsewhere.

"Increasingly systematic exchanges operated via certain applications such as Telegram must, in the context of judicial procedures ... be able to be identified and used as elements of proof," Cazeneuve said during a visit to Paris by de Maiziere.

The ministers also called for rapid steps to beef up EU border controls, following a decision taken earlier this year. They proposed holding an exercise on the ground to test the bloc's crisis response capabilities, as well as greater efforts to fight document fraud.

The three-pronged Franco-German proposal also includes a renewed call for greater information-sharing among member states. This has long been a bone of contention, as many EU capitals have been reluctant in the past to pass on security data.

The ministers demanded the establishment of a single EU-wide system to collect data on people crossing in and out of the bloc, as well as the centralized collection of information on sought suspects, visa recipients, registered refugees and air passengers.

"We want a common European management of [personal] identities for travel, security and migration," de Maiziere said.

The ministers want their proposals to be discussed at an informal summit of 27 EU leaders - all except Britain, following its vote to leave the bloc - in Bratislava on September 16.

Last update: Tue, 23/08/2016 - 14:37

More from Europe

EP Foreign Affairs Committee warns of rising tensions in W. Balkans

Members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday expressed concern over rising tensions and incendiary...

Gabriel set to become German foreign minister

Social Democrat chief Sigmar Gabriel is set to become Germany's foreign minister after deciding against standing as...

Gabriel proposes Schulz as the centre-left SPD's challenger to Merkel

German Social Democrat (SPD) chief Sigmar Gabriel said Tuesday he will not lead his centre-left party's challenge to...

Six killed in helicopter crash in earthquake-hit central Italy

A rescue helicopter crashed in central Italy on Tuesday, killing all six passengers on board as it returned from an...

German court tries Syrian asylum seeker accused of deli knife murder

A Syrian asylum seeker accused of killing his girlfriend with a deli knife and injuring passersby in southern town...