Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Chancellor Kurz, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, and President Michel, following the videoconference on the fight against terrorism
Statement given yesterday by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Chancellor Kurz, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, and President Michel, following the videoconference on the fight against terrorism.
I too would first of all like to thank President Macron and Chancellor Kurz very much for this initiative and for this important time and the decisions we have taken together. I would like to say at the outset that our thoughts are with the victims of these terrible attacks, not least in France and Austria. And that we have been reminded very clearly once again of how important it is for us to act jointly to be able to fight these attacks, this terror.
Our European Union is a unique area of freedom. But we can only defend this freedom if there is also security. And that is precisely what our talks today were about.
I want to focus on what the Commission's task and contribution can be here. On 9 December, the Commission will be presenting a new European agenda on combating terrorism. A lot has been done in recent years, but we also now see – as previous speakers have also mentioned – that we still have work to do. And we must now urgently make progress on three levels. The first is prevention. The second is protection of the external borders and the third is action.
On prevention: We saw in Paris and Vienna where radicalisation can lead. So we must begin at the root causes. And before radicalisation begins, what is needed is advancement opportunities, inclusion and commonality. The best means, the most effective weapon against every form of extremism is for young people to have prospects. That is why we will present a new European action plan for integration and inclusion on 24 November that will take up precisely these issues.*
At the same time we will take forward the work of the European anti-radicalisation network. It is a unique network with over 5000 experienced members – teachers and police officers, social workers and physicians who all work with young people every day in the field and try to guide them on the right path in life. And their experiences feed into this network. And they in turn take what they learn – also from their fellow members of the network – back into the field. So these people are out there where it is all happening. And it is precisely this network that we will further develop and strengthen.
The second aspect of prevention has been mentioned a number of times: the Internet. Here in fact there are two strands of action, in operational terms. The first is that the Commission proposal introduced in 2018 on preventing terrorist on-line content is adopted by the Council and Parliament in trilogue. Here it is important that in the proposal we really focus above all on the speed at which such terrorist content is removed. It is crucial that it happens swiftly. And I believe that we can successfully adopt this Commission proposal by the end of the year.
Secondly: We want to make the major Internet platforms more accountable when it comes to combating illegal and harmful on-line content. For that reason, in a few weeks we will be presenting the so-called Digital Services Act. The principle is very simple: Clearly the major platforms cannot review their entire content, but when it is pointed out to them that there is something illegal or harmful, they must act, and they must do so immediately and swiftly. That is the spirit of the legislative proposal. And the bigger the platform, the greater its responsibility.
On the protection of the external borders: At the end of the month we will have the first so-called Schengen Forum. This is a forum in which we will look at the strengths and weaknesses of Schengen. And the Commission will present a new Schengen Strategy in May 2021 based on the lessons that we learn from it. One of the main issues is strengthening EURODAC. This is also part of the Migration Package. It is also important for Europol to receive more competences so that it can access information better and to strengthen cross-border European action. For a Europe without internal borders is possible only if there is reliable protection of the external borders. And this is also only possible with stronger police cooperation.
Third and final point: action. As I have said, on 9 December we will present the European agenda on combating terrorism, with a stronger mandate for Europol. We must also better address the gaps in the Schengen Information System because we have seen that its implementation is not always entirely successful. For example, there is the fact that only 80% of all passengers entering the European Union are actually systematically controlled. Here we must do much better. It is a simple procedurei it goes quickly, it takes almost no time. It is simply a matter of swiping a passport through a reader. So here there are very pragmatic steps we can take to improve the security situation.
We have already heard a number of times today that there are two further directives that must be implemented. One is the directive on combating terrorism and the second is a directive that I would like to mention once again. It is a directive from 2017 on the acquisition and possession of weapons, which has not been well implemented so far. Here too we can further improve cooperation.
All these themes will also be taken up in the next Council and today's discussions have again shown that European cooperation clearly signals that we are resolved and united in defending our common values and our freedoms.
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