November 10, 2020 Faith Matters

European leaders say collaboration key in anti-terror fight

French President Emmanuel Macron said that extremist attacks are a “European reality” and the European Union must tighten the screws on weak spots like external borders and the internet.

The calls follow two deadly extremist attacks in France and another in Austria in recent weeks.

Mr Macron’s remarks came after he, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and the leaders of the EU’s executive and political arms held a video conference to discuss anti-terrorism strategy.

The group also addressed journalists, a mix of voices intended to underscore the need for collaboration to defeat terrorism.

The response to terrorism and radicalisation must be “common, coordinated and rapid” with “methodic” work in the weeks ahead, before a meeting of European heads of state in December, Macron said.

Extremist attacks have bloodied numerous EU countries over the years. Mr Macron noted that on Friday, France will mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris attacks that killed 130 people at a music hall and cafes on November 13, 2015.

The French leader stressed the need to develop a shared database and improved police cooperation, and said he wants a “deep reform” of how the external borders of Europe’s visa-free travel area are policed, a plan he made public last week.

“All weaknesses at the external border or in one member state is a security risk for all members,” Mr Macron said.

He additionally wants to get “terrorist content” pulled from the internet within an hour of its appearance, “something that must absolutely be put in place in the weeks ahead”.

Interior ministers from EU member nations are scheduled to meet on Friday about how to accelerate and improve anti-terrorism work in progress, said European Council President Charles Michel, who attended Tuesday’s video conference along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU’s national leaders will review the situation at a December meeting, Mr Michel said.

The conference came a week after a man who officials said had tried to join the Islamic State group shot four people dead in Vienna before police shot and killed him. The shooting has strengthened calls in Austria for a crackdown on Islamic extremism.

In France last month, an Islamic extremist killed three people in a church in the French city of Nice, and another extremist beheaded a teacher near Paris because he had shown his students cartoons of Islam’s prophet for a discussion about freedom of expression.

As a result of the attacks, Mr Macron last week proposed tighter controls on the EU’s external borders, more coordinated policing inside the bloc’s visa-free zone and changes to EU migration policy.

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