The EU has ramped up efforts to widen its security cooperation over data-sharing deals with several countries from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
During the first EU-Arab League summit, which aims at stepping up cooperation on trade, security and migration, EU officials were in talks with their counterparts over data-sharing agreements between the EU's law enforcement agency, Europol, and local authorities, the Middle East Eye reported Sunday.
The high-profile meeting of heads of state and government in the Egyptian desert resort of Sharm el-Sheikh came as some Arab countries are facing security and economic crises. The wars in Yemen and Syria, the unrest in Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were the focus of the discussions at a closed session on addressing "regional challenges together."
In recent months, Daesh has suffered military setbacks in Iraq and neighboring Syria, virtually ending the group's territorial self-styled "caliphate." The militant group's military collapse has raised fears that fragments of the group will retaliate with attacks in Europe and the Middle East. "The fate of the European Union depends to a significant degree on the fate of the countries of the Arab League," German Chancellor Angel Merkel told journalists. "We saw this in the context of migration, of refugees, and therefore the task is to nurture multilateral cooperation, even if at times there are very different viewpoints."
The EU's latest security cooperation with MENA countries is considered as part of efforts to bolster counterterrorism policing across the continent. However, EU rules prohibit sharing sensitive information with countries outside the bloc. In order to strengthen Europol's cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism and organized crime and to tackle challenges such as irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, the EU Commission was given the green light in July 2018 to start negotiations with eight countries on behalf of the EU.
Last year, the EU also agreed to require member countries to share more information about suspected militants and records of fingerprints and other biometric data as part of a security upgrade to thwart terrorist attacks.