The Commission has put forward a proposal for improving the institutional framework of the Schengen area. First, the Commission proposes a strengthening of the Schengen evaluation mechanism. Announced and unannounced monitoring visits to a given Member State by Commission-led teams with experts from other Member States and Frontex will verify the application of the Schengen rules. Second, the Commission tackles the problem of unilateral reintroduction of borders. Such a decision for the reintroduction of internal border controls for foreseeable events (such as an important sporting event or a major political meeting) would be taken at the European level on the basis of a proposal by the European Commission backed by a ‘qualified majority’ of Member States’ experts. If a Member State fails to adequately protect a part of the EU’s external border, support measures including technical and financial support from the Commission, from Member States, from FRONTEX or other agencies like Europol or the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), can be taken.
The proposed measures are a big step forward for the European border security policy. However, a few Member States have already expressed skepticism, citing the national sovereignty as the main reason. They seem to have forgotten the very poor response of France and Italy to the wave of sea-borne migrants due to the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa.
It will be very interesting to observe the debate on the Commission proposals, since border security is one of the factors that will define the viability of the European project.
Yesterday a terrible crime was committed in Norway, leaving more than 90 people dead. A lone terrorist was able firs to explode a bomb in the centre of Oslo and then to shoot at least 80 people, many of whom were teenagers. We know very little about his motivation, but it appears that he held far-right, and anti-Muslim views. So let’s say it bluntly: the ghost of racial and religious hatred is roaming in Europe. We have to stop it.
I have watched with indignation the rise of far-right parties in the EU – from Netherlands to France and from Bulgaria to Italy. Everywhere across Europe the narrative of cheap nationalism and populism, the language of hatred and discrimination has become fashionable. Even mainstream politicians have flirted with it. This has to stop.
Europe has suffered too often from its stereotypes of hatred. After all, we nearly exterminated a whole ethnos just 70 years ago. I refuse to look the other way when the same old disease is surfacing. And I cannot overlook the role of media in this. Yesterday, while it was still unclear who was responsible for the events in Oslo, an English newspaper put this headline on its first page, claiming that the bombing was orchestrated by Al Qaeda. This was happening while various counterterrorism experts on Twitter were explaining that it was quite unlikely that Al Qaeda was involved. This was not an innocent mistake. We live in a time when many people in the media business do enjoy flirting with far-right agendas, because they know that hatred sells. Mr. Murdoch’s publications are not the only ones involved. We have to stop this.
It is quite obvious that the European countries do have a problem with the integration of immigrants. A lot can be done here. First, we need to address border security. Second, we need to foster integration of immigrants, without resorting to defeatist language, while taking into account the security concerns of our citizens. Third, we need to redesign development programs for developing countries. Fourth, we need to help designing programs for adaptation to climate change in developing countries. Fifth, we need to persecute crimes motivated by religious hatred and crime.
This agenda is much more important than any other agenda of the European Union. It needs leadership and determination. The alternative is grim. The ghost of hatred is still a ghost. We have to stop it.
UPDATE: Please look at the faces of the victims from the Utoya shooting.
Posted in Foreign and Security Policy, Human Rights, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged border security, Climate change, developing countries, European Union, far-right, hatred, Immigration, nationalism, Norway, Oslo, populism, racism, religious hatred, terrorism, Utoya
France and Italy have signaled their desire to push for a reform of the Schengen framework for border control. One of the most important proposals is the procedural right to temporarily re-establish border controls between two countries. The European Commission is scheduled to present its own plans for amending the Schengen rules next week (4 May).
The Schengen border security legal framework is now part of the EU acquis. Any revision of the Schengen framework goes through a codecision procedure, where the European Parliament is a co-legislator with the Council (see art. 77, para. 2 TFEU). More, the Commission is the only body that can propose legislation on border checks, asylum and immigration (see a contrario art. 76 TFEU). Whatever France and Italy propose is of no relevance; the Member States do not have a right of initiative on these matters.
On all these accounts I am quite skeptical that Italy and France will succeed to push an amendment of the Schengen framework that seriously undermines the principles of the current regime. Any significant policy overhaul must be accompanied by a careful impact assessment and discussions not only among governments of Member States, but also with relevant stakeholders. It will take more than a bilateral summit to do that.
The news that Italy and Malta are pressing for special summits to deal with the “epic emergency” immigration resulting from the upheaval in North Africa did not surprise me. Back in 2009 I wrote to the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe 2020-2030, proposing a specific initiative for a common EU border security policy using the instruments of the Lisbon Treaty. I developed my arguments in an article that I presented at a UACES conference in the beginning of 2010, and it was published in the journal European Security.
My argument was that:
1. EU border security is not effective enough due to uneven policy implementation, and
2. Future challenges and threats may overwhelm the present institutional setting.
I went on to discuss some of the challenges based on the assumption of fundamental factors affecting human security – the changing climate (Stern 2007) and the global demographic trends (Lee 2003). I outlined a number of impending threats and concluded that the development of a true common European border security policy is urgently needed in order to develop and implement adequate holistic solutions for mitigating those threats. Sergio Carrera from CEPS has written an excellent paper on the possible creation of a common European border security service.
Now, it is true that some Member States have their own views about border security. But a strategic review of the EU’s border security policy is obviously and urgently needed. It may or may not result in a common border security service, as Carrera proposes. But it should create a comprehensive action plan that goes much beyond technological standards and ad hoc assistance.
If my analysis is even partially correct, there is no time to lose.
Statewatch has published a restricted access report by EUROPOL, EUROJUST and FRONTEX on the state of internal security in the European Union. A selection of the findings (I have underlined some sections):
- The affluent consumer base and open business environment of the EU makes the region particularly vulnerable;
- Organised crime is growing in scale and sophistication;
- The number of terrorist attacks in the EU is declining but both violent separatist groups and Islamist extremists remain active and pose a clear threat to internal security;
- Most threats to internal security are generated outside the EU. Africa, South Asia, the Former Soviet Union, and the Western Balkans carry particular significance;
- Key hubs in and around the external border of the EU have developed as the principal staging posts for the inward flow of illicit goods and people;
- Border security is compromised by groups exploiting vulnerabilities in the transport sector;
- The threat from cyber crime is multi-dimensional, targeting citizens, businesses, and governments at a rapidly growing rate;
- European citizens and businesses are increasingly exposed to systematic violence and corruption at the hands of organised crime groups, terrorist groups, and, increasingly, street gangs.
Posted in Foreign and Security Policy, Institutional Affairs, Internal Market, Justice and Internal Affairs
Tagged border security, Corruption, EUROJUST, European Union, EUROPOL, Frontex, internal security, organized crime, report, street gangs, threats