RIGA (dpa) – EU interior ministers were mulling steps Thursday to clamp down on terrorism, fo-cusing among other things on the Internet and better monitoring at the bloc’s external borders, in the wake of this month’s deadly attacks in Paris and a foiled threat in Belgium.
“We are determined… to take another step for-ward for the security of Europe’s citizens,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, ahead of talks in Riga with his 27 EU counter-parts.
“The question is not if something going to happen, but the question is when and where,” added his Belgian counterpart Jan Jambon.
The debate has focused in particular on foreign fighters – Europeans who join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq and are seen as a security threat once they return. The Internet poses a particular risk, as both a source of radicalisation and a com-munication channel.
One move being considered is to beef up mea-sures at the European level to monitor Internet content and flag items for deletion if they breach the code of conduct agreed by companies such as Google or Twitter.
This would be a “major progress”, said EU Counterterrorism Coordinator Giles de Kercho-ve. He has proposed that the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol could take on the task, following a British initiative.
De Kerchove also pointed out that advances in encryption technology are making it harder for police and intelligence services to “inter-cept communications between crooks (and) ter-rorists”.
He also stressed, however, that the Internet can play a positive role by providing a “counter-narrative” to extremism.
Thursday’s discussions will feed into a debate among EU leaders on counterterrorism at their next summit, on February 12.
Another focus has been the question of im-proving the monitoring of people travelling in and out of the European Union.
While more can be done within the rules of the EU’s border-free Schengen zone, ministers were mulling whether to change the Schengen code to allow more rigorous checks of EU citizens when they enter and leave the bloc.
Member states have also resumed efforts to set up a contentious EU programme to collect and share information on airline passengers, after the scheme was blocked last year by EU lawmakers.
“We know that the parliament had issues,” De Maizere said. “I know also that a compromise must be reached, but the topic itself is pressing and we are urging for a conclusion.”