We strongly welcome today's endorsement by the European Parliament of two important proposals presented by the Commission to strengthen the security of European citizens – the Directive on combatting terrorism and the proposal to reinforce checks at Schengen's external borders.
With the new Directive on combatting terrorism, police and prosecutors across the EU will be able to fight and counter terrorism more effectively and ensure a common response to the evolving terrorist threat, fully in line with fundamental rights.
Our legal framework will be reinforced, ensuring that all Member States criminalise terrorism-related offences such as travelling abroad to commit a terrorist offence, returning or travelling within the EU for such activities, training for terrorist purposes as well as the financing of terrorism. This is essential at a time when there is a risk of foreign terrorist fighters deciding to return to Europe from combat zones. With this proposal, the EU is also stepping up its support to victims of terrorism who can now be assured that wherever they are in Europe, they will get the protection, advice and support they need, immediately following an attack and for as long as necessary.
In addition, today's positive vote to reinforce checks at our external borders through an amendment of the Schengen Borders Code, together with the roll-out of the European Border and Coast Guard, reflects our joint commitment to strengthen the management of our external borders and deliver on the measures agreed in the Bratislava roadmap.
We need to know who is crossing our external borders. With these changes, there will now be systematic checks of all travellers against relevant databases at all of Schengen's external borders. This is a game changer and will significantly reduce the chances that people who pose a security threat – including EU nationals who have travelled abroad for terrorist purposes – pass the borders unnoticed.At the same time, the compromise reached with the co-legislators ensures a good balance between the current security challenges and the need to ensure that disproportionate impacts on traffic flows at border crossings are avoided.
The endorsement of these proposals by the European Parliament shows that the EU is delivering swiftly and resolutely on its commitments to enhance the internal security of the EU, paving the way towards an effective and sustainable Security Union. When the Commission tabled these proposals in December 2015, we asked the Parliament and the Council to treat them as a matter of urgency. The EU institutions have worked constructively together to make this happen.
Given the importance of these two proposals for the security of European citizens, we count on the Council for a swift final adoption and rapid and full implementation by Member States.