Calling the >Brussels terror attacks an “attack on our open, democratic society”, an urgent meeting of European Union Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs held here yesterday resolved to swiftly implement the decisions taken at a similar meeting held after the >Paris blasts in November last.
The failure to share intelligence was identified as the lesson not learnt following the Paris attacks — a major failure that has had costly consequences.
A key outcome of the meeting was the decision by the Ministers to “increase as a matter of urgency the systematic feeding, consistent use and interoperability of European and international databases in the fields of security, travel and migration, by making full use of technological developments and including privacy safeguards from the outset.”
The attacks were a “shock but unfortunately not a surprise,” Dimitrus Avramopolous, member of the European Council in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said at a press conference. He had scathing words for the collective failure of the EU institutions to implement vital decisions. “Words and commitments mean very little if they are not acted upon, not delivered. Something needs to change,” he said, pointing to the “lack of political will, lack of coordination and lack of trust,” among EU countries. Consecutive terror episodes “can’t continue to be wake up calls forever.”
On the importance of intelligence and data sharing, he said the EU ministers resolved to quickly set up a joint liaison team of national experts that would become the nerve centre of counter terrorism. “Data cannot be put into black boxes. We need to talk to each other, and our systems need to talk to each other,” he said.
Mr. Avramopolous castigated the EU institutions for their failure to implement some of the political decisions taken after the Paris attacks. He cited the example of the explosives used in the Paris and Brussels attacks, which were home-made. “We cannot allow terrorists to buy all this easily. We have the regulation on explosives in place since 2013 – why is it not implemented” he asked.
Other decisions taken by EU ministers include adopting the Personal Name Record directive by April 2016 so that countries can exchange data on passenger flows; systematise border checks at the external borders of the Schengen area; prioritise digital data sharing; develop robust programmes within vulnerable communities like the Radicalisation Awareness Network; and establish a joint liaison team of national counter-terrorism experts at Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre.