EU seeks new anti-terror measures after Paris attack

EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker gives a joint press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 18, 2014

The EU will draw up new proposals to fight terrorism in the next few weeks following the deadly Islamist attack on a satirical magazine in France, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday.

Brussels officials said a key aim is to push through a scheme to share data on all airline passengers despite opposition from some of the EU's 28 member states and the European Parliament.

"We will present a new programme against terrorism in the coming weeks," Juncker told reporters in the Latvian capital Riga, while adding it was too early to disclose details.

While stressing that counter-terrorism is mainly the responsibility of individual member states Juncker said the European Commission, the EU's executive body, could play an important coordinating role.

Juncker and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini were in Riga to mark the start of Latvia's six-month EU presidency, which began on January 1.

Officials said that foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on January 19 and interior ministers gathering in Riga on January 28 would discuss ways to better fight terrorism after the attack that killed 12 people Wednesday at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris.

The European Parliament will also formally discuss the Paris attack on Monday.

Mogherini, who will chair the foreign ministers' meeting, said it was "urgent" to establish a European Passenger Name Record (PNR) system.

The system would allow EU members to collect and share data on all airline passengers in a bid to trace would-be militants -- a move critics say infringes on civil liberties.

In Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the commission would "throw its weight behind the negotiations" with the parliament on the issue.

EU counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove argues that tracking passengers is essential to tracing the estimated 3,000 EU citizens who have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

European governments have long warned of the threat posed by battle-hardened combatants on their return home.

Cherif Kouachi, the 32-year-old hunted along with his older brother Said for the attack on Charlie Hebdo, was jailed in 2008 for his role in sending fighters to Iraq.

Opponents of the PNR in the European Parliament say they are not convinced of its usefulness.

"I'm not categorically opposed to data collection for security purposes, but I ask for parliament to be given proof of the need to collect data on all passengers," liberal Dutch parliamentarian Sophie Ind't Veldt told AFP.

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