Only days after the terrorist attack in London the civil liberties committee discussed the EU’s security situation with German Interior Minister Interior Thomas de Maizière and his French counterpart Matthias Fekl debated on 27 March. Both ministers spoke about the need to secure the EU’s external borders, to better share information between EU countries and to address the new challenges of radicalisation and terrorism.
Fekl started the debate by referring to the events in London: “No citizen, no member state, can feel safe from a terrorist attack at the moment, and we need to work quickly and effectively in order to combat terrorism.”
While some recent attacks in Europe were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists, both ministers agreed that working on securing the external borders was crucial. Fekl said: “It is only through securing our external borders fully that we can enjoy free circulation.”
MEPs recently approved new rules for EU border checks to better identify returning foreign fighters. MEPs are also working on a new entry-exit system to step up controls on non-EU nationals travelling to the EU, which Thomas de Maizière described as “the prerequisite for maintaining a border check free Schengen area”.
Discussions also focused on encryption, as UK authorities want access to encoded messages to conduct investigations on the London attack. Fekl stressed that there was currently no legal basis for obliging Internet operators to cooperate with judicial inquiries and invited the European Commission to consider new legislation.
Many MEPs expressed concerns about the loopholes in implementing existing tools, such as the directive on the use of passenger name records (PNR). Monika Hohlmeier, a German member of the EPP group, said improving the use of current data bases was essential.
Helga Stevens, a Belgian member of the ECR group, stressed the importance of developing preventive measures, in particular in order to tackle radicalisation.
Some MEPs also highlighted the right to data protection when processing and sharing personal information. German S&D member Birgit Sippel said we should know who has access to what data.