EU interior ministers agree to step up security at the bloc's external borders

  • 2020-11-15
  • LETA/AFP/TBT Staff

BRUSSELS - European Union interior ministers agreed Friday to reinforce security at the bloc's external borders and to back legislation to impose tougher controls on violent extremism online.

The interior ministers, who met in an informal videoconference, endorsed the adoption of a new law to control online content and allow for a removal of extremist content within an hour.

"The aim is to enable issuing removal orders with cross-border effect to create a new and rapid and effective instrument to counter terrorist content online within an hour or less of its being reported," a statement said.

And, while they said border security would ultimately remain the responsibility of member states, they hacked efforts to build coordinated EU security databases.

"The competent authorities need to know who enters the Schengen area and who travels within it," they said, referring to Europe's passport-free travel zone.

"We must effectively control our external borders, record entries and departures from the Schengen area in digital form, and cooperate more closely with third countries in order to combat terrorist threats."

Some member states, notably France and Austria, have been calling for action to specifically target Islamist extremism -- including ideology -- as a source of recent violence.

But, despite noting the Islamist motivation of the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in France last month, the joint statement did not single out any particular religious faith.

Member states would, it said, protect "religious expression which is both peaceful and respectful of the laws adopted by our Member States. This applies equally to all religions."

"Our fight against terrorism is not directed against any religious or political beliefs, but against fanatical and violent extremism," the statement said.

Nevertheless, "migrants are expected to make an active effort to become integrated" and violations of European laws and values "should be neither downplayed nor tolerated, no matter what motivates them."