STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden will propose at an EU meeting on Friday the introduction of biometric passport controls at the external borders of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, the prime minister said, following the attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.
Stefan Lofven’s statement came a day after Swedish security police raised the terror threat level and said they were hunting a man suspected of planning an attack.
Swedish media reported that the suspect was a member of the Islamic State group which claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks in Paris.
“Sweden has probably been naive,” Lofven told a news conference.
“Maybe it has been hard for us to accept that there are in our open society, right in our midst, people - Swedish citizens - who sympathize with the murderers in ISIL,” he said, using another acronym for the militant Islamist group.
He said Sweden would push at Friday’s meeting of European Union interior and justice ministers in Brussels for the introduction of biometric passports at the borders of the Schengen area, which comprises 26 European countries. Inside Schengen, people can move around freely without passport checks.
A biometric passport is deemed much more secure as it uses contactless smart card technology to authenticate the holder’s identity.
Lofven did not elaborate on the proposal but added that Sweden might also allow more camera surveillance and grant authorities greater powers to monitor digital communications such as Skype.
The prime minister also touched on the vexed issue of EU citizens who travel to the Middle East to fight alongside Islamic State and in some cases return home radicalized and ready to attack their home country.
Swedish security police said this week nearly 300 Swedish passport-holders had gone to fight with Islamic State and about 120 had returned to Sweden.
“Sweden will never become a safe-haven for terrorism and terrorists,” Lofven said. “The message to those who travel from Sweden to commit crimes against humanity in other countries is that if they return they will be met by police, prosecuted and punished.”
Political violence is rare in Sweden, though in 2010 a suicide bomber died when his bomb belt went off prematurely in Stockholm. Weeks later Sweden and Denmark disrupted a plot to attack a Danish newspaper.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Gareth Jones