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Quote:EU anti-terror talks: ministers plan 'new era of travel surveillance'

Foreign ministers including Philip Hammond meet amid heightened security in Brussels to plan response to Paris attacks and Belgian jihadist cell plot

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A Belgian soldier patrols outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers Photo: AFP/Getty

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By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

11:11AM GMT 19 Jan 2015

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss anti-terror measures in the wake of the Paris attacks and destruction of a jihadist terrorist cell in Belgium

The talks are taking place with heightened security on the streets of Brussels with troops called out to guard EU, government buildings and Jewish schools across Belgium.

Britain is backing plans for new databases to monitor all air travel in or out and within Europe in order to track terror suspects in the wake of the Paris attacks and last week's dismantling of a terrorist group with links to Islamic State in Belgium.

A new era of travel surveillance is expected to be introduced after the attacks which has reinforced concerns that the EU's free movement zone makes it harder for security services keep an eye on jihadists with links to Syria or Iraq.

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, said that ministers would be discussing ways to unblock opposition in the European Parliament to central databases of air passenger name records (PNR), in order to monitor the movements of terror suspects.

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"We will all be determined to do what is necessary to keep Europe safe from the terrorist threat. We will be talking about the challenge of extreme Islamism today and how we deal with it, with our counter-terrorist response," he said.
"We will be looking at some of the specific measures that can help to keep us safe, like passenger name records, within Europe. So that is important."
The EU is also planning anti-terror measures in cooperation with Arab countries to share information on jihadi terror suspects travelling to and from Syria in the wake of attacks and arrests across Europe.
Mr Hammond said that the United States would be joining European and Arab countries later this week in London to review progress fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) terrorist group.
"The Muslim countries of the world are the ones that have suffered the greatest burden of terrorism. They will continue to be in the front line and we have to work closely with them to protect both those countries and the EU countries," he said.
Nabil el-Arabi, the secretary general of the Arab League, is attending Monday's talks and his presence was welcomed by Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign minister.
"We need to strengthen the ways we cooperate together, first with Muslim countries and then internally. We will start with a discussion on how to counter terrorism not only in Europe but in other parts of the world," she said.
"We need to share information more, we need to cooperate more. We will discuss with the secretary general how to increase the level of cooperation with our partners. We need an alliance, a dialogue."
Mrs Mogherini said that national governments would appeal against a European court ruling that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas should be removed from the EU's terrorist list.
Pending the appeal, Hamas will remain on the EU's terrorism list and its assets will stay frozen before a final judgment by the European Court of Justice.
"The EU is determined to stem the financing of terrorism," she said.
EU leaders will discuss a five point anti-terrorism plan at a summit on 12 February after the meeting between European foreign followed by talks of interior ministers next week.
Using Europol, which has new powers to collect information on people who have never been convicted of a criminal offence, the EU is planning to create a more centralised system of intelligence sharing allowing security services to monitor and track suspects throughout the EU's 28 countries.
Existing border control databases will be combined with a future PNR scheme to "ensure maximal use of passenger data processing" to create a new surveillance system covering people travelling both within and outside the EU.
Britain, along with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands, is pushing the EU to introduce border checks on suspected Islamists returning to their home countries in Europe.
MEPs will come under intense pressure next week to drop their opposition to security databases of passenger name records (PNR), information that includes credit card details, travel itineraries and the dietary choices made on flights.
David Cameron has described the European Parliament's blockage of the measure, which the Prime Minister regards as critical for British security, as "frankly ridiculous".
"The terrorists' threats will never make us change our way of life" said every government minister everywhere and then within 72 hours of any 'attack' they try to change our way of life.