(CN) - The European Commission on Wednesday asked lawmakers to close gaps in terrorism laws, less than three weeks after the deadly attacks in Paris that also locked down the EU capital of Brussels for days.
Current EU terror legislation passed in 2002 and last updated in 2008 already criminalizes some terrorist acts. But the commission said member states have seen an alarming increase in the numbers of EU nationals who travel to conflict zones to fight or train with terrorist groups - and doing so is not currently a crime.
"The commission is determined to do everything it can to help member states address and defeat the terrorist threat," commission vice president Frans Timmermans said. "The increase in the number of EU citizens travelling abroad to become 'foreign fighters' means that an update of the EU framework on terrorist offenses is needed to ensure a common criminal justice response. Cooperation at EU level and with third countries is also necessary to crack down on the black market for firearms and explosives. Our proposals will facilitate the efforts of national authorities to disrupt terrorist networks."
Of the six Paris attackers who authorities were able to identify, all were Belgian or French nationals - and all are believed to have traveled to Syria. So the commission called on lawmakers to criminalize traveling for terrorist purposes both inside and out of the EU, the funding and organization of such travel, receiving training for terrorist purposes and funding terrorist acts.
The commission's proposed directive would also make recruitment of terrorists and the spread of terrorist propaganda - including on the Internet - illegal.
"Today we deliver on our promise to be firm on terrorism," home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said. "Our proposal targets not only those who commit terrorist atrocities, but also those who help with travelling, financing or supporting terrorism. This is how we reinforce our criminal response to tackle the serious threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters. Europe needs to act together, decisively and swiftly, to crack down on terrorism and improve our security."
The commission's proposed directive must be passed by the EU Council and the European Parliament before it can become law.
Also on Wednesday, the commission formally adopted an action plan aimed at complementing a sweeping gun-control package introduced on Nov. 18. The plan would task Europol with cracking down on illicit firearms trafficking, particularly on the Internet, and possibly ban cash sales of weapons and ammunition.
The commission also urged member states to enact as quickly as possible new regulations on chemicals that can be used to make homemade explosives. Although member states technically have until 2017 to put the regulations in place, the commission said in light of the fact that the suicide belts used in the Paris attacks contained chemical precursors that are restricted by the regulations, time is of the essence.
The attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 killed 130 people and injured at least 350. Nine of the 10 suspected attackers are dead, including the mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
One suspect, Salah Abdeslam, remains at large.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
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