European nations synchronise laws on Islamic extremist 'foreign fighters'

A combination of handout security camera pictures shows (left to right) British teenagers Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum passing through security barriers at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on February 17. They are feared to have run
A combination of handout security camera pictures shows (left to right) British teenagers Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum passing through security barriers at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on February 17. They are feared to have run off to join ISIS group are believed to have crossed from Turkey into Syria, British police said, and have not been seen since. -- PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Ministers from 47 European nations agreed for the first time Tuesday to harmonise their laws to stop so-called foreign fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria to join extremist groups.

The agreement by the Council of Europe, a pan-European rights group which includes the EU but also takes in countries such as Russia and Turkey, will make cross-border tracking and prosecutions easier.

Under the agreement signed by foreign ministers, countries must criminalise acts such as "participating in an association or group for the purpose of terrorism", "receiving training for terrorism" and "travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism".

They also agreed to set up a round-the-clock information sharing network on relevant suspects.

"The police of the different member states will be able to make contact with the police in other countries when they arrest on their borders people who are suspected of being foreign fighters," CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland told a news conference.

Member states still have to ratify the deal individually following Tuesday's meeting in Brussels of the group, which was set up shortly after World War II.

A lack of agreement between countries over how legally to define suspects had been a major obstacle to the creation of an EU database of "foreign fighters" from European nations.

EU nationals who have returned to Europe after joining the extremist cause in the Middle East have been implicated in several recent attacks including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January and an attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014.