10.11.2020 Europe

France hosts Austria's Kurz ahead of conference on tackling terror in EU

REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
LISTEN NOV 10, 2020
REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

French President Emmanuel Macron is to host his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz in Paris ahead of a video summit with Germany and European Union chiefs to discuss a joint response to recent terror attacks blamed on Islamist radicals.

Kurz is to hold talks with Macron on Tuesday afternoon before both are joined by Germany's Angela Merkel, European Council chief Charles Michel and Commission head Ursula von der Leyen via video links, the Elysée Palace said.

Macron is likely to discuss several security proposals, such as a thorough revision of the rules for the Schengen area that guarantees the free movement of people across borders.

On 5 November, Macron announced a doubling of the number of French border guards from 2,400 to 4,800 to help with a crackdown on illegal immigration and people trafficking.

"More often than not people trafficking networks are linked to terrorism networks," he said.

"I wish to intensify the protection of our common borders and a real police force for our external borders," he said, adding that he would take these proposals to the European Council meeting in December with a view to confirming the changes before the end of his presidential term in 2022.

The meetings come a week after a convicted Islamic State group supporter killed four people in a shooting rampage in Vienna, and last month's attacks at a church in Nice and the beheading of a teacher near Paris.

"We believe that this terrorist threat is a fundamental, profound and serious threat against the values that form the basis of the European project and we have no intention of showing weakness," Michel told a news briefing in Vienna on Monday, where he attended a ceremony in memory of the attack victims.

French European Affairs minister Clement Beaune, also in Vienna for the ceremony, said the Frontex agency charged with protecting the EU's external borders should see its staff number boosted to 10,000 from 1,500 now.

"Some Europeans still think that this topic concerns just a few countries, mostly France," he said.

"It was a great shock to all of us when we realised that the European model is being targeted," he said.

Tackle online hate speech

According to the French embassy in Vienna, Monday's talks by Michel and Beaune with Kurz also included possible reform of the Schengen treaty and the "European fight against online hate speech".

Meanwhile, Austrian police on Monday raided more than 60 addresses across the country, allegedly linked to radical Islamists and seized millions of euros in cash, with orders for 30 suspects to be questioned.

Among the alleged offences are forming a terrorist association, financing of terrorism and money laundering.

Prosecutors said the raids were not linked to last week's attack.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said the police action was aimed at "cutting off the roots of political Islam".

"We are acting against these criminal, extremist and inhuman organisations with all our strength," he said in a statement.

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