EU dwells on ways to tackle terrorism

Brussels, December 18

European Union leaders vowed today to step up the fight against terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks, wrapping up a dramatic 2015 plagued by a series of crises.

Leaders of the bloc’s 28 member states assembled in Brussels for their last summit of a year which opened with the threat of a Greek exit from the euro and ended with a refugee crisis of historic proportions as well as Britain facing its own possible “Brexit” from the European Union.

“I am under no illusions,” said European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker as he arrived for the second day of the talks when asked on his hopes for a smoother 2016.

This year was also marked by deadly attacks by Islamists in Paris but also in Copenhagen, with the threat by violent and often homegrown extremists affecting all of Europe.

“I have never lived such a year that starts with terror and finishes with terror, that is marked by fear and deep crises,” said European Parliament head Martin Schulz after the first day of talks.

The jihadist violence began in January with the shocking assault by French nationals against satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, followed by another assault in Copenhagen only a few week later, and then the November attacks in the French capital in which 130 people were killed.

The 28 leaders were to discuss today ways to better pitch the battle against Islamic State jihadists after the massacres.

In a draft of the summit conclusions seen by AFP, leaders vowed to press on with a series of proposals made in February that have since remained stuck in the EU’s legislative pipeline.

These measures, which include a controversial plan to track airline passenger names in close coordination with the United States, “need to be urgently implemented”, the statement said.

European authorities have grappled with revelations that several of the extremists behind the attacks were already known to police and had travelled freely across Europe in the months before their assaults.