EU home affairs ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday are preparing to reprise demands made after January's Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to close perceived loopholes and gaps in the passport-free Schengen zone's security arrangements, Censor.NET reports citing the Financial Times.
This includes calling on the European Commission to propose rule changes to allow for EU citizens entering the Schengen area to be systematically registered - a measure not presently permitted.
Bernard Cazeneuve, French interior minister, hit out at the EU's lack of action, saying the bloc must "shape up" and regroup in the face of an organised terror threat following Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. Most politically sensitive is the push to conclude the fraught eight-year debate over whether so-called passenger name record data, stored during flight bookings within the EU, can be shared with law enforcement agencies. It is a touchstone issue for liberal MEPs, who fear the system could be misused to discriminate against minorities. EU officials involved in the negotiations said talks with the parliament had borne fruit in recent days, with one official saying they "made us quite confident we will reach agreement by the end of the year".
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the issue has become politicised in Brussels, with Monika Hohlmeier, a German Christian Democrat and leader of the parliament's home affairs committee, accusing left-leaning parties of "inviting terrorists to use loopholes in our safety and security legislation in order to perpetrate other terror attacks. For them there is no lesson to be drawn from the Paris attacks," Ms Hohlmeier said of the parliament's mainstream centre-left and liberal groups. "The movements of terrorists have to be monitored."
The calls to tighten Schengen security rules come against the backdrop of a more far-reaching debate between member states, as they respond to acute pressures from the migration crisis. In a sign of the drastic measures under consideration, the Netherlands has informally raised the idea of shrinking the zone to a "mini-Schengen", which would reintroduce border checks around a core of western EU member states.
Thomas de Maizière, Germany's interior minister, dismissed the Dutch idea on Thursday. "Our political goal must be that the Schengen area as a whole functions," he said. "Everything else would just be considerations."
The commission has been avoided discussing amendments to the code governing the Schengen zone. Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU home affairs commissioner, said on Wednesday that Schengen was "not the problem" if its tools for security were put to full use.
The reforms of border rules backed by EU ministers involve a relatively small change, but reopening the code would raise the risk of it turning into a fundamental overhaul. At present, member states have co-ordinated an approach to "unsystematic" checks on EU citizens entering the Schengen area. However, blanket registration of the kind security officials are calling for would need amendments to the travel-zone's code.
Draft conclusions for Friday's Brussels home affairs ministers meeting call for more rigorous use of law enforcement databases and more sharing of intelligence. They also propose mechanisms to track the movements of foreign fighters returning from Syria.