EU Leaders Propose to Rethink Schengen Borders, Step Up Efforts to Fight Terrorism

The last two high-profile terrorist attacks – in Nice and Vienna – have prompted European leaders to act decisively in the fight against terrorism. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced a whole range of measures to strengthen European security and combat Islamic radicalism. The leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union also took part in the video-meeting. The European Commission will present a Common European Integration Development Plan at the end of November, and the heads of state will agree on further actions at the EU Summit in December.

The meeting was originally planned by French President Emmanuelle Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as comrades-in-arms. At the end of October, there was a terrorist attack in Nice, where a man with a knife stabbed three parishioners in Notre Dame Cathedral and wounded several others. And the 34-year-old Austrian Chancellor just last week experienced one of the most difficult moments of his career: a terrorist with a machete and an automatic rifle opened fire in the heart of Vienna.

No one can feel safe from the terrorist threat, concluded Emmanuelle Macron. « Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Utrecht, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Nice … » – he listed. As the host, Mr. Macron was the first to announce his plan to fight terrorism. The plan consisted of three items.

The first was to strengthen cooperation and coordination between EU countries, together with national efforts to de-radicalise within the EU.

The second was the fight against propaganda and hate speech. « The Internet », reminded the French President, « is a space of freedom, but freedom is only possible if there is no threat to life. He promised that publications containing expressions of hostility and hatred will soon be removed from the social networks within an hour. The European Commission will propose a new package of amendments to combat « hate speech » in early December.

And the third item is the reform of the Schengen agreements. « We will not be able to leave the borders within the Schengen open if we do not achieve security, » explained the President. According to him, it is necessary to ensure the protection of the external borders of Schengen, to severely punish those who violate the external borders or threaten security inside, and to create its own EU Security Council. « Schengen reform is the key to our security, » explained Mr. Macron.

Chancellor Kurtz followed: « It was a shock to our capital Vienna and to the whole country, » he recalled the recent terrorist attack and thanked his European colleagues for their support and offers of assistance, which began to arrive in the first hours, if not minutes, after the tragedy. « Thank God, we didn’t need any help, » he said, « but this shows the strength of European unity. His proposals also consisted of three points: the fight against foreign terrorist fighters who had fought in Syria and Iraq and now have returned to the EU; protection of the EU’s external borders; the fight against radical ideology in mosques, Muslim communities and on the Internet.

« The best weapon against radicalisation is the prospect that young people have, » reminded European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. On 25 November, she said, a pan-European plan for integration and inclusion in the EU will be presented. Angela Merkel, for her part, agreed on the need to reform the Schengen agreements, but recalled that in taking all these efforts, Christianity as a European religion and Islam must not be contrasted – instead, the « democratic model of society » must fight terrorism and anti-democratic impulses. She recalled that efforts to integrate and fight terrorism should not be discussed separately, but together with Islamic organisations, representatives of other religions and Islamic countries.

source: ec.europa.eu, reuters.com

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