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France wants tough action on borders as EU ministers debate migrants, terrorism

media French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve AFP

As European interior and migration ministers meet in Amsterdam on Monday, France wants action on vetting migrants entering the bloc in the light of the November Paris attacks. As the EU police agency chief warned that the Islamic State (IS) armed group will focus on attacking Europe, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised to press for the terror fight to be stepped up.

Ahead of the meeting Cazeneuve vowed to put "considerable pressure" on his European partners to tighten controls at Europe's borders and accused some countries of not pullling their weight because they had not suffered terror attacks.

Click here to read more articles on Paris attacks

The EU police agency Europol launched a new counterterrorism centre in The Hague on Monday and its boss, Rob Wainwright, warned that IS had "developed a new combat style to carry out large-scale terrorist attacks on a global scale, with a particular focus on Europe".

They would be "primarily directed at soft targets", like the concert and restaurants hit in Paris and the Russian airliner bombed last October, "because of the impact it generates", he said.

France believes that the Paris attacks were decided on in Syria but prepared in Belgium and several of the attackers were Belgian nationals, who had been fighting with IS in the Middle East.

With an estimated 5,000 EU nationals having gone to join IS there, France wants tougher monitoring at the borders of the Schengen former free-movement zone, and better coordination between intelligence agencies.

Greece is under the spotlight as the first point of entry from the Middle East but insists it is guarding its borders but is not ready "sink boats and drown women and children", as deputy European Affairs Minister Nikos Xidakis put it Sunday.

Cazeneuve main demands were reported to be:

  • Harmonisation of criteria to place names on the Schengen Information System (SIS) database - at present all bankrobbers go on it automatically but not all EU nationals who have gone to fight jihad - and sharing of information among intelligence agencies, some of whom currently keep important information to themselves;

  • Strengthening of the Frontex border agency in the first six months of this year with more staff who are competent to check for false passports and all migrants entering Europe being registered, having their fingerprints taken and their identities checked on the SIS;

  • Cross-checking between SIS and Schengen visa records to prevent multiple applications and fraud.

The various meetings being arranged by the Netherlands, which has just taken over the EU's rotating presidency, are to help the European Commission draw up a roadmap, which should be endorsed by a Council of Ministers in a few weeks time.

The French are warning that another major attack could sound the death-knell of Schengen and even the EU itself.

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