European leaders, in an emergency summit on Tuesday, pushed to tighten the European Union external borders after suspected Islamist militants killed eight people in Paris, Nice and Vienna within a month.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “rapid and coordinated” response and denounced what he described as the “misuse” of Europe’s asylum provisions by people seeking entry for sinister reasons.
“In all of our countries we are witnessing a misuse of the right to asylum” by traffickers, criminal gangs, or people from countries “which are not at war”, the French leader told journalists after the video conference.
The meeting was called after four people were killed in a shooting rampage by a dual Austrian-Macedonian national in the heart of Vienna last week.
A Chechen radical Islamist with asylum status beheaded a history teacher outside Paris last month, and a Tunisian who came to France on a migrant boat then killed three people at a church in Nice.
The crimes prompted a debate about entry control.
And as European leaders vowed Tuesday to protect the Schengen zone of visa-free travel between member countries, they also talked about strengthening the common zone’s borders with the outside.
“You can only preserve it (Schengen) if we urgently, urgently focus on the external borders,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The Netherlands, he said, supported strengthening Frontex – the agency tasked with helping EU countries and the Schengen members manage their external borders.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, agreed it was “urgent and crucial for us to know who enters and who leaves” the Schengen area.
Meeting host Macron called for better data exchanges between EU countries “because any security gap on the external border or inside member states is a security risk for all the member states.”
Last week, he announced a doubling of the number of French border guards, and called for a “deep” revision in the Schengen area rules.
Also present at Tuesday’s meeting were Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, European Council chief Charles Michel and EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who also underscored the “protection of external borders” as a priority.
Kurz said the danger of an attack “is with us permanently”.
“We have among us thousands of foreign terrorist combatants who survived combat in Syria and Iraq for the Islamic State (group) and returned,” he said.
“These are time bombs,” added Kurz. “We need to adopt a more solid approach to the threat weighing on Europe.”
Stressing there was no conflict between Islam and Christianity, Merkel said there was, however, a strong need “for a model of democratic society to combat terrorist and undemocratic behaviour” in Europe. (Source: CNA)