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EU ministers urge introduction of airport passenger data exchange

EU justice and interior ministers have called for airport passenger data exchange "as a matter of urgency" in the wake of Tuesday's Brussels attacks. They've called for resistance to the measure to end.

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Brussels: One man's luck in face of tragedy

Calls by the ministers in Brussels on Thursday echoed French requests made ever since last year's Paris attacks for the

EU parliament

to authorize a common passenger name record for the bloc, including a database containing details on air travelers, such as their names and destinations.

Tuesday's attacks in Brussels have exposed European

security weaknesses

and prompted calls for better intelligence cooperation.

France has also said it wants the members of Europe's passport-free Schengen area to improve exchange of intelligence, and called for an agreement on combating illegal trafficking of weapons.

The passenger data issue is not popular among privacy campaigners and is a significant element of the

security versus liberties

debate in western democracies. The US, for example, has long pushed for better data sharing, but Europeans have dragged their feet over privacy issues.

A show of solidarity

The meeting was "intended to show solidarity with Belgium, discuss the actual state of play in the fight against terrorism and pursue swift completion and implementation of legislation," the EU said in a statement.

Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Thursday France is proposing the creation of a taskforce to help in the fight against fake identities.

Cazeneuve said more must be done since "Islamic State managed to get fake passports and have established a structure that manufactures fake documents." He added that a united front needs to be shown also in the fight against arms trafficking, which he called "one of the main causes of the development of terrorist activities."

Multiple suspects in Tuesday's attacks in Brussels and November's attacks in Paris were found to have used false identities.

Tightening the net

Earlier on Thursday, Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel

rejected resignation offers from his interior and justice ministers

after the Brussels attacks. The ministers had offered to resign after Turkey revealed that one of the suicide bombers involved in Tuesday's attacks had been within the grasp of European authorities.

Belgium's Interior Minister Jan Jambon

Belgium's Interior Minister Jan Jambon

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said Ankara had deported Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the terror suspects, to the Netherlands in June 2015.

"You can ask how it came about that someone was let out so early and that we missed the chance to seize him when he was in Turkey. I understand the question," Interior Minister Jan Jambon said ahead of the meeting.

Prosecutors said at least 31 people were killed and 270 injured in the three suicide bomb attacks at Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

Belgium's threat alert

is at its highest level and several other suspects who may be linked to the attacks are still on the loose, said Paul Van Tigchelt, head of Belgium's terrorism threat body.

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