BRUSSELS (AP) – Galvanised by the recent terror attacks in France, European Union leaders on Thursday debate a range of ambitious steps to better protect their 28 nations, including exchanging airliner passenger manifests, tigh-tening controls at the border and combating extremism on the Internet.
“Europe is facing an unprecedented, diverse and serious terrorist threat,” Gilles de Kerchove, the bloc’s counter-terrorism coordinator, told EU member governments in a report last month.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, whose nation holds the EU’s six-month revolving presidency, said Tuesday the often fractious members had reached broad consensus on what actions to take, and share the “strong will” to im-plement them.
But Wednesday, an EU official, briefing jour-nalists on condition he not be identified by name or function, said work was still going on to finalise the list of recommended actions to be sub-mitted to the leaders at the summit for their approval.
Counter-terrorism policy shot to the top of the EU agenda following the January 7-9 terror attacks in Paris against a satirical weekly, a po-licewoman and a kosher grocery store that clai-med a total of 17 victims. The three gunmen, who proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaeda in Yemen and the Islamic State group, were also shot dead by French police.
The attacks stunned Europe and mobilised France and other EU countries to seek more effective ways to deal with armed Islamic mili-tancy, especially the problem of radicalised European-born Muslims departing to fight in Sy-ria or Iraq and returning home to sow the doctri-ne and techniques of holy war.
The attacks in the French capital “were a game-changer” for EU counter-terrorism policy, said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, senior trans-Atlantic fellow and director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund think tank. To pre-
pare for Thursday’s summit in Brussels, EU fo-reign, finance and interior and justice ministers drew up recommendations on what to do.