EU to toughen external border checks after Paris attacks
The EU is set Friday to tighten checks on all travellers, including its own citizens, at the external borders of the passport-free Schengen zone following the Paris attacks, officials said.
But at an emergency meeting in Brussels, France will push for longer-term systematic checks that would require a change of the Schengen border code and therefore need wider political agreement.
The decision for tougher short-term checks is to be taken at Friday's crisis meeting, which was requested by France in the wake of last week's suicide and gun attacks in which 129 people died, officials said.
The ministers will "implement immediately the necessary systematic and coordinated checks at external borders, including on individuals enjoying the right of free movement," according to a draft seen by AFP.
Schengen has come under scrutiny following the revelations that some of the Paris attackers came from Belgium, and that alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud may have come back from fighting with IS in Syria to take part.
Most EU citizens enjoy passport-free travel throughout the Schengen zone of 22 EU countries, plus non-EU Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
EU officials said travellers will now not only have their passports examined but have their personal information checked with databases.
"We can do it now, for a month, for a year, on special routes," an EU source said.
"But for the future we have to change article seven of the Schengen border code in order to do systematic checks on everyone," he said.
"That is why ministers will invite the (European) Commission to present legislation on that."
The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, insists there is enough flexibility in the current Schengen rules to provide adequate border security, but says it is willing to discuss France's proposals.
"We're open to discussing all of the French proposals," a European Commission spokeswoman told AFP.
France is also pushing for the EU to agree on US-style Passenger Name Record (PNR) system which involves collecting EU passenger data by the end of the year.
The plan is controversial in Europe due to concerns to protect personal information while fighting terrorism and serious crime.
The meeting will also focus on the question of firearms security and the reinforcement of controls at external borders.
© 2015 AFP