The need to fight terrorism on European soil has become that much more real after the recent attacks in France and anti-terror raids elsewhere. The EPP Group has proposed a series of measures aimed at giving authorities better tools to combat terrorism, and to prevent radicalisation among youth.
The strategy, to be voted on at the next Strasbourg plenary, calls for tackling terrorism and its causes. Speaking at a news conference, EPP Group Vice Chair Esteban González Pons said the spirit of unity after the Paris attacks should translate into united action.
Esteban González Pons, EPP Group Vice-Chairman
We want to make this pact against terrorism with everyone. If we had another, God forbid not, but if we had another attack, the spirit of Paris must be present before there is an attack, not just after.
First on the list of measures is tackling radicalisation. That includes monitoring online activity and sensitising the public to shut down hate preachers and recruiters. It supports projects promoting moderate Islam. And a greater effort in prisons to separate or isolate extremists.
It calls for an EU-wide Passenger Name Records system or PNR, and data retention to track suspects. A blacklist of Jihadis and terror suspects in Europe. The power to confiscate passports, to monitor telecommunications, to shut down terrorist financing and tighten gun laws.
But in so doing, EPP Group Chair Manfred Weber says the measures must respect Europe´s civil liberties.
Manfred Weber, EPP Group Chair
We have implemented sectoral data protection standards in the past to improve the work. And that is also important to us for those future laws, to build on these standards and uphold them. That is what I call the European way, to collect and analyse data. Europe must take data protection seriously, but it is no argument to do nothing.
While the EPP Group rules
While the EPP Group rules out closing internal EU borders in the so-called Schengen Area, it does call for member states to step up temporary document checks. Monika Hohlmeier, the EPP Group Coordinator on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Commitee, says the Schengen Area can remain intact with the package of measures.
Monika Hohlmeier, German MEP
If the European level wouldn't react at all, then you cannot stop a minister of interior saying, I feel that my member state, I have clear analysis that there is a danger because of no border controls. So the discussion of exit and entry systems, Smart Borders package to do this, in the same way we do this with PNR, and as we should do with data retention. ...I think then we have the possibility not only to save Schengen, but to keep Schengen in a good mind of the population, and of all member states.
The pain and grief still fresh among Europeans after the terror attacks in France, some call for the Schengen Agreement to be scrapped. But most political groups here agree that free movement must stand as a fundamental right in Europe, and as an important driver of the European economy.
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New measures to fight terrorism while protecting civil liberties, EPP says
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the EPP Group proposes measures to coordinate EU anti-terror efforts and preserve the Schengen Area, while ensuring data protection. Measures include tracking suspects, halting hate propaganda, preventing radicalisation among youth and reviewing laws on illegal weapons. The proposals are to be voted on at the European Parliament's next Strasbourg plenary.
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