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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Macron pushes Europe for crackdown on ISIS ticking timebomb threats

'We need our security services to co-ordinate better and implement measures better'

French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attend the video conference with other European leaders. AP
French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attend the video conference with other European leaders. AP

French President Emmanuel Macron led a call from European leaders on Tuesday for an overhaul of security, border and anti-extremism policies as the EU grapples with its response to a wave of ISIS terrorism.

Speaking beside visiting Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Paris, Mr Macron said attacks seen recently in Vienna, Nice and elsewhere in France posed a threat to the entire continent.

After a video conference that included German, Dutch and EU leaders, Mr Macron said the bloc needed a common, coordinated and rapid overhaul of its laws and structures.

"The terrorist threat affects all EU countries," he said. "That is why we have to agree on a quick joint response. We need our security services to co-ordinate better and implement measures better."

Mr Macron is pushing for a rethink of Europe's open-border Schengen area and is doubling the size of French border forces. More than 250 people have died in terrorist attacks in France in the past five years.

Mr Kurz spoke of the dangers posed by the release from prison of ISIS members in Europe. He said that securing Europe's borders was important because foreign fighters who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria were trying to return to Europe.

“There are a lot of foreign fighters," he said. "These are ticking timebombs. What is needed is a more robust approach to the threat - there must be limits. The protection of the EU's external borders must work."

Leaked proposals ahead of an EU meeting of interior ministers on Friday contained new measures, including backdoor access to online messages, more powers against hate content on the web and measures to ensure Islamic institutions are not captured by extremists.

"The regulation on the removal of terrorist content from the internet within one hour must absolutely be adopted in the coming weeks," Mr Macron said.

The EU draft underlined the need to tackle security issues arising from encrypted messages. “Access to digital data is becoming ever more crucial - whether it is connection data or in some cases data content,” the draft statement said.

"Social media and other hosting service providers have a responsibility in making sure that their services are not used for illegal activities or to promote crime, terrorism or hatred," it said.

The draft also sought new approaches to resisting ideological encroachment within European societies. "We require mutual respect, including within religious communities,” it said. “This applies equally to Islam and all other religions.”

Special training standards for imams as a means of guaranteeing equality were suggested.

“We must protect people in Europe from Islamism,” the draft said. “We want to strengthen European Muslims as our partners in the fight against Islamist extremism for they, too, are its victims.”

The leaders noted that the issue of extremism was not confined to one religion or place of worship.

"Radicalisation on the internet, the seduction of young people, does not only take place in mosques," Mr Kurz said. "Action has to be taken and we must fight for its implementation."

Updated: November 10, 2020 09:12 PM

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