Politics

After Paris terror: Europe steps up security measures

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A French police officer stands guard at the Franco-Italian border in Menton, France, on Nov. 15, 2015, after the deadly attacks in Paris on Friday.
Eric Gaillard | Reuters

Europe's justice and interior ministers gather in Brussels today for an emergency meeting sparked by last week's terror attack in Paris.

It will be ministers' first opportunity to consider how the 28-country European Union will respond to the growing domestic security threat posed by groups like the Islamic State.

France for the first time triggered a special law this week that requires its European neighbors to help them by all means possible, in light of "armed aggression" within its borders.

Here are some of the measures being considered:

Boosting border controls

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Concerns that one or more of the Paris attackers may have taken popular migrant routes into Europe, has pushed Europe to examine it porous border regime.

Europe's Schengen agreement, which eschews internal borders, has to rely on its external borders which lie on the peripheries of countries including Greece, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.

At today's meeting, member states agreed to step up checks at these borders to help track "suspicious" movements by individuals by ramping up existing databases, boosting staff and "reinforcing" border equipment.

Travel records

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during an exceptional joint gathering of both of the French houses of parliament on November 16, 2015 in Versailles, France. During his speech, the French President expressed his commitment to 'destroying' Islamic State (IS), following Friday's terrorist attacks which left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured.
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European lawmakers have been debating over how for how to best preserve, standardize and share flight records for months.

This includes information cards that are filled out by passengers and include names, travel dates, seats, itineraries, payment details and baggage info, with current drafts of the law proposing that this information be kept for up to five years.

This only applies to international flights into the bloc at the moment, but ministers are now pushing to finalize passenger name records plans by year-end.

Firearms

Lawmakers will aim to revise existing firearm laws and increase country cooperation with Europe's border agency, Frontex, as well as the bloc's policing organization, Europol, in order to crack down on gun smuggling.

Information sharing

Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was implicated in four thwarted French terror plots this year, a minister said on November 19, deploring the fact that no-one had flagged his presence in Europe. Abaaoud was killed on November 18 in a massive police raid five days after a series of deadly attacks on Paris that left 129 people dead and over 350 wounded.
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Intelligence sharing has been a hot topic since last week's attacks, with ministers now deciding to boost anti-terrorism cooperation by exchanging information through existing EU databases.

President Barack Obama at the G20 meeting in Antalya, Turkey earlier this week explained that the U.S. already shares intelligence about the Islamic State with EU allies, and it's unclear whether intelligence proposals put forward today could extend to third countries outside the bloc.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Belgium's deputy prime minister Didier Reynders said he had been pushing for further intelligence sharing within the EU and with NATO for years, according to news agency AFP.

"I hope that after all these attacks, these dramas, there will be a change of mentality," he said.

Terrorist financing

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Ministers are planning to push the European Commission to improve and strengthen ties between each country's financial intelligence units to help track money laundering and terrorist financing across the bloc that could help cut off funding for potential violent crimes at the source.

This could include restrictions on the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, according to draft proposals seen by Reuters. It could also extend to anonymous payments through pre-paid debit or gift cards.

Justice for terrorists

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Lawmakers are today expected to ask the European Commission to fund rehabilitation programs and risk assessment tools that would help deal with terrorism and violent extremism.

There are also plans to "enhance" the criminal justice response, though the details of what that "response" would look like have yet to be released.