In January 2007, the German Minister of the Interior and the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Justice, Freedom, and Security portfolio proposed the creation of an informal group of policy makers at the ministerial level to consider the future of European policy in this area. The proposal was made at a meeting of the European Union’s Ministers of Interior and Immigration in Dresden. The Future Group, as it came to be called, recently issued its report entitled “Freedom, Security, Privacy – European Home Affairs in an Open World.”
The Future Group was co-chaired by the Vice President of the European Commission and the Minister of Interior of the acting Presidency. It assembled the Ministers of Interior of Germany, Portugal, Slovenia, France, Czech Republic, and Sweden, and a representative from Spain, Belgium, and Hungary, as well as the President of the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament and a representative of the Secretariat General of the EC.
The Future Group focused on homeland security-type challenges facing the EU in the period of 2010-2014. They highlighted three cross-cutting challenges as “essential to safeguard and complete the area of justice, freedom and security in the light of continuously changing framework conditions:”
• Preserving the “European model” in the area of European Home Affairs by balancing mobility, security, and privacy;
• Coping with the growing interdependence between internal and external security;
• Ensuring the best possible flow of data within European-wide information networks.
Homeland security remains principally a responsibility of individual EU Member States. However, because the EU faces multiple risks, including natural disasters and intentional disasters defined by the Future Group as “in the context of terrorist Chemical, Biological, Radio Nuclear threats,” the Future Group supports the development of a European policy to improve “consistency, better efficiency and even greater solidarity between Member States.” DHS engagement of EU nations should be informed by these proposals as they may reveal a policy direction being embraced by important counterparts across the Atlantic.
The 2005 European Union Strategy for the External Dimension of the Area of Justice, Freedom, and Security called for deeper cooperation between ministers of Home Affairs, Foreign Relations, Development, and Defense. The EU Future Group suggests that this type of coordination ought to accommodate varying strategies for engagement with other countries, namely the U.S., and with entire regions.
Specifically, the Group advocates tightening links with the EU’s strategic partners – especially the United States and Russia. By 2014 the European Union should finalize and formalize its political objective to establish a Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation in the field of freedom, security and justice with the United States, it states. Under this format, Home Affairs issues may be more closely linked with the EU’s external relations.
Other proposals of the Future Group are organized in terms of the above three issue areas. Key ideas that should be considered by U.S. homeland security leadership include the following:
• The Group recommends that the 2005 European Union Strategy be further developed into a comprehensive global approach with better use of EU Member States’ relevant competences and resources. The Group also believes that a new concept should be developed on the future of the EU’s related institutions. Specifics include improving information flow between Eurojust and Europol, and the role of the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) should be revisited.
• Better political, technical, and operational cooperation should be reached with non-EU countries, especially those most at risk of terrorism and the EU’s major strategic partners, namely the United States and Russia. The Group suggests promoting exchanges of best practices between Member States and possibly with non-EU states concerning the legal tools for extradition/expulsion, surveillance, and measures to fight “home-grown terrorism.”
• A European counter terrorism policy should take into account the “possible threat” of terrorist attacks with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, suggests the EU group. It also proposes creating a platform for sharing information between the Member States’ special police units responsible for dealing with WMD scenarios.
• The first phase of the EU’s border management policy, which aimed mainly at removing internal border controls, is coming to an end. An integrated border management strategy, argues the Group, must be capable of dealing with the intensifying global movement of people, cargo, conveyances, and information. To do so, the Future Group recommends establishing integrated control of European Union borders, including a “one stop approach integrating all checks and controls carried out for different purposes.” This is not unlike our effort to create “one face at the border” through CBP.
• Efforts should be made to launch a “European Security Tool-Pool” Initiative, say the report’s authors. Such a “tool pool” would allow Member States and European Union institutions to make available tools “of proven or potential use in the security field for appraisal and or testing by authorities of other Member States and, when useful, support its mutual deployment.”
For more on ways in which the U.S. could participate in such a “tool-pool,” please see earlier writings here on establishing a version of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency under DHS that serves a similar purpose by lending, leasing, or selling technology and other competencies to nations in need of better homeland security.
Also see Matt Korade’s piece in today’s CQ Homeland Security on the special role served by the UN in countering terrorism.
Special thanks to reader Peter J. Brown for bringing this report to my attention. See his guest post here later in the week on the DHS National Applications Office.