Ministers urge review of Schengen rules to boost rail security
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Officials from nine European nations agreed Saturday to reinforce security on international rail lines and urged the European Commission to review the rules of the Schengen border-free zone after a foiled attack on a train last week in France.
Just over a week after passengers subdued a gunman on an Amsterdam-to-Paris express train, interior and transport ministers from France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland met in Paris to discuss improving security on cross-border trains.
“We are determined to pursue our cooperation to ... prevent, detect and better fight violent acts that radicalised individuals may want to commit on European Union soil,” said a joint statement read out by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Cazeneuve outlined four key measures, ranging from more identity checks and baggage controls on trains and at stations “wherever and whenever necessary”, to increasing the number of police patrols on international services.
He said there would be an effort to ensure international tickets bore passengers’ names and that railway police would have access to a database of “pertinent” information.
“Our aim is that concrete and ambitious safety and security measures ... are adopted by the different players at a European level,” he said.
EU officials say the bloc has supported member states in developing better security at stations – including pilot schemes for new technologies that can help detect weapons and explosives without the lengthy procedures familiar at airports.
Increasingly concerned about security threats and illegal migration, some European governments are considering amending the Schengen border code, which eliminated systematic frontier controls across much of Europe.
“We invite the Commission ... to examine a targeted amendment to the Schengen frontier code allowing controls where necessary and when necessary,” Cazeneuve said, without elaborating.
However, the European Commission, the EU executive which enforces the Schengen system, said it sees no need to change the rules, either to improve security or control migration.
EU officials say governments are already free to check for weapons and Schengen permits them to check identities, including at frontiers, if there are specific security threats. Germany, for example, imposed increased border controls when it hosted the G7 summit in June.
Talk of more sweeping curbs in the Schengen zone – which excludes Britain but includes non-EU members Norway and Switzerland – troubles business leaders, who see the speed and ease of moving people around Europe as a boon for the bloc's economy.
EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said that, while security was the first priority, there should not be an overreaction.
“It is essential that, as far as possible, public transport remains open and easily accessible. Security must be proportionate to the threat,” she said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)