EU plots counter-terrorism strategy against militant Islamists

European Union interior ministers met on Thursday in Riga to finalise a counter-terrorism strategy targeting radical Islamists weeks after the Paris terror attacks that left 17 people dead.

AFP| Updated: Jan 29, 2015, 23:46 PM IST

Riga: European Union interior ministers met on Thursday in Riga to finalise a counter-terrorism strategy targeting radical Islamists weeks after the Paris terror attacks that left 17 people dead.

The ministers recommend more stringent controls on EU citizens leaving and entering the Schengen free travel zone, an air passenger registry to check the movement of suspected Islamist militants and fresh cyber-security measures aimed at intercepting suspect traffic.

"We need first of all to strengthen existing instruments. We already have many important tools in place. Now is the moment to enhance them even more," said EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Those tools include a new understanding with "key players of the Internet industry to discuss the challenges posed by online terrorist propaganda," he added.

"It is vital that member states work further at the national level to tackle illegal content online," he said, to counter the radicalisation of young Muslims and prevent their recruitment by jihadists.

Other measures discussed include better information sharing for "identification of travel routes of terrorism" and the adoption of "an EU-wide system for sharing details of air passengers".

"An EU passengers' name record directive is necessary. It is necessary to enhance substantially the security of all people living in Europe," Avramopoulos said.

A joint statement by the 28 EU interior ministers said the European Commission needed to present its strategy "by mid-April 2015 at the latest" in order to update the EU Internal Security Strategy "by mid 2015".

Raids against suspected Islamic militants were staged in several EU countries, notably Belgium, after the Islamist attacks in Paris earlier this month.

More than 3,000 Europeans have joined militant Islamists fighting in Syria and Iraq according to EU statistics. Thirty percent of the recruits have since returned to Europe.