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EU vows ‘uncompromising fight’ against terrorism

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk, center, during a round table meeting an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. European Union leaders are reconvening in Brussels for the final day of their year-end summit with a wide-ranging agenda including how to build greater economic unity among their 28 countries and stepping up the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk, center, during a round table meeting an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. European Union leaders are reconvening in Brussels for the final day of their year-end summit with a wide-ranging agenda including how to build greater economic unity among their 28 countries and stepping up the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS: Shocked by the bloody Paris attacks, European Union leaders yesterday vowed an “uncompromising fight against terrorism” and called for wide-ranging countermeasures ranging from beefed-up immigration controls to a crackdown on illicit weapons trafficking.

Leaders of the 28 EU member countries also pledged quick action to better restrict violent extremists’ ability to finance their actions, including via the imposition of asset freezes and other restrictive measures. The Brussels summit was the first time the EU leaders had assembled since the Nov 13 attacks, claimed by the Islamic State organization, that killed 130 and wounded hundreds more in Paris.

Those attacks “have only strengthened our resolve to continue our uncompromising fight against terrorism and to make full use of all the tools at our disposal, including close coordination with key partners such as the United States,” EU leaders said in a joint statement. They also agreed it was crucial to implement systematic and coordinated border checks at European countries’ external frontiers in order to know who was coming and going, and promised to rapidly review proposals by the EU’s executive arm to clamp down on the illicit sale of firearms, especially the high-powered semi-automatic weapons that were used by some of the Paris attackers.

Visa liberalization
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker recommended yesterday the EU should offer visa-free short-stay travel to Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo, all three locked in bitter disputes with Russia. “The Commission this morning took a positive position on the liberalization of visas for Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine,” Juncker said after an EU leaders summit in Brussels.

“Accordingly, the Commission was able to propose to EU leaders that they take rapid decisions on visa liberalisation for the three countries,” he said. Juncker said he had met pro-western Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko earlier this week iron out the last remaining issues.

Officials said the Commission will draw up a formal proposal early next year which the European Council, the bloc’s political leaders, and the European Parliament will then have to approve. The 28-nation EU suspended visa liberalization talks with Russia as it ratcheted up punitive measures, later to include damaging economic sanctions, over its role in the deepening Ukraine crisis. – Agencies

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