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EU ministers debate functionality of border system in wake of terror attacks

Police cordon off an area where a shooting took place in the center of Brussels, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.
Police cordon off an area where a shooting took place in the center of Brussels, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. Copyright Sylvain Plazy/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Sylvain Plazy/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Sandor Zsiros
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EU interior ministers discussed on Thursday the lessons the EU should learn after two terrorist attacks hit Europe in just one week.

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Shortly after the Hamas attack against Israel a teacher was killed in the French city of Arras and on Monday a suspected extremist shot two Swedish football fans dead in Brussels.

The perpetrator of the attack in the Belgian capital, Abdessalem Lassoued, allegedly used loopholes in the European asylum system and managed to stay off the grid, despite being well-known to authorities.

"The guy who was committing the terror crimes in Belgium on Monday night, he was deported from Sweden in 2010 as a Dublin case," Gunnar Strömmer, Swedish Minister for Justice said.

"And since then he was able to show up in different countries in the Union. That also underscores things about the Dublin system, the border control, efficient return system, sharing information between our member countries."

The Dublin Regulation is meant to prevent people from making asylum requests in multiple EU member states, with the decision from the first member state supposed to be final. 

Ministers also discussed the need to fight online radicalisation, which played a role in both recent attacks. 

They pledged more cooperation, including information exchange between member states, and called for effective checks at external borders. 

Ministers also want to speed up the return of irregular migrants to their country of origin, especially in the case of people posing a security threat.

"We have done a lot, so already this year we have seen an increase of 20% of returnees, so we are actually effectively returning more people today," EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Thursday.

"But still more needs to be done and especially important for me that those who can cause a security threat to our citizens and to our unions have to be returned forcefully, immediately."

Due to the terrorist threat, Italy and Slovenia have announced they will introduce checks on their land borders. 

This adds to the numerous exemptions to the Schengen agreement in Europe. 

Despite this, the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU said the bloc could give Romania and Bulgaria the green light to join the Schengen Area in December.

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