BRUSSELS – France and Belgium will urge their European partners on Friday to tighten gun laws, toughen border security and choke off funds to extremist groups, a week after at least 129 people were killed in attacks in Paris. But at an emergency meeting in Brussels, European Union interior and justice ministers will not agree on any new measures that could be immediately introduced to restore calm among countries rattled by the coordinated strikes in the French capital.
Indeed, documents prepared for their talks and seen by The Associated Press show that the ministers will merely try to push forward on priorities already identified, but not acted on, by EU leaders following the attacks in Paris in January on a satirical newspaper and a kosher grocery.
Here's a look at what's up for discussion:
WEAPONS AND EXPLOSIVES CRACKDOWN
The ministers will examine new proposals, including a ban on some semi-automatic weapons and a guarantee that no private individual can own one, even if it has been permanently deactivated. At least one officially deactivated weapon was put back into service in Belgium and used in the attacks in Paris in January. Also on the list are tighter rules to prevent the purchase of arms or ammunition over the Internet; stricter conditions on collectors to limit the risk their guns might be sold to criminals; common EU standards for marking weapons so they are easier to trace; and better information exchanges so a person banned from buying a firearm in one country can't get one by crossing a border. A crackdown on illegal weapons or explosives coming from the Balkans, and other former or current conflict areas, is likely too.
AIRLINE PASSENGER INFORMATION
The Europeans have been working on an airline passenger name record system for about eight years. It would give authorities access to names, credit card details, travel itineraries and more. The EU has a system for exchanging passenger data with the U.S., Australia and Canada, but the 28 nations are unable to agree on one among themselves, mostly due to privacy concerns. Draft legislation has been held up in the European Parliament since April 2012. In the face of the impasse, Belgium's prime minister affirmed on Thursday that his country would push ahead on such a system on its own. Britain also has its own system, and other countries are developing them.
EU BORDER SECURITY
France and Belgium want to stop foreign fighters from traveling to Syria and Iraq, then bringing their know-how back to Europe. More than 1,200 Europeans are thought to have done so. The idea is to introduce systematic controls on Europeans when they enter the EU. At the moment, travel documents of European citizens are checked visually but not swiped into the bloc's vast database, as they are with non-EU nationals. But introducing systematic checks will require changes to the rules governing Europe's passport free zone, known as the Schengen area.
The ministers will commit to step up information sharing. Problem is, information is often jealously guarded by nations. About half the information in the hands of the European police agency Europol is provided by just a few of the 28 member countries. The idea now is to at least enter data about all suspected foreign fighters in the vast Schengen Information System computer database used in the passport free zone.
EXTREMIST GROUP FINANCING
The EU's executive arm will be asked to come up with ways to boost cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units, the national agencies that monitor money laundering and analyze suspicious transactions. Their findings could be made available to Europol. Traffic in artworks will also come under scrutiny, to close off one major market for cultural items pillaged by the Islamic State group.