Don’t sacrifice Europe for the illusion of national security. A better Schengen is the answer to migration and terrorism
Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 16:30
The Spinelli Group calls for a European Border and Coast Guard, a Single European Asylum System, a European Intelligence Force and a European Police Agency
Free movement of people and the abolition of internal border controls between Member States are one of the European Union’s greatest achievements. They have been instrumental in bringing European peoples together and they underpin the European single market. In the eyes of many citizens, they are the best symbol of the triumph of European unity over centuries of divisions. Yet today Schengen and our freedom of movement are under threat. Under the pressure of migration and the fear of terrorism, some national governments want to close national borders and re-establish border controls. They are wrong. National borders and border controls provide no additional security. They divert resources from more effective European measures. They hamper economic recovery. They undermine the very basis of European unity. Giving up on the freedoms that Europe provides for the illusion of security within national borders prevents the development of real answers to the challenges of migration and terrorism and feeds nationalist, populist and anti-European sentiments.
Schengen is at risk because it is an incomplete construction. It is an essential project in sheer need of completion. The external borders of the Union are a shared concern and must become a single responsibility of the Union as a whole. Freedom of movement requires European security and intelligence capabilities and binding cooperation between national authorities. A comprehensive European migration policy should address the root-causes of the refugee and migration flows and at the same time prepare Europe to fulfil its responsibilities of acceptance and integration.
The Spinelli Group calls on the European institutions to embark on a process of deep recasting and strengthening of the Schengen arrangements and on the Member States to give their full support to all measures necessary to ensure their continuity. The European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice will not survive without five main reforms
1. A Single European Asylum System, replacing the current Dublin system, reflecting the principles of shared responsibility and solidarity between Member States and ensuring the respect of our commitments under international law. The European Asylum Support Office should be transformed into a European Asylum Authority. It should monitor and coordinate the work of national administrations in charge of processing asylum requests and should have the power and the capabilities to support or substitute them in times of emergency. Burden sharing mechanisms to allocate all refugees among Member States should be permanent and binding.
2. A European Border and Coast Guard must be established by expanding the mandate and capabilities of the Frontex agency. Its role should go beyond monitoring and coordination of national forces. It should have standing forces staffed by EU agents and experts. It should be able to intervene rapidly by an EU decision when national governments are unable to effectively control their borders. Prospectively, it should integrate national border forces into a single European force responsible for the entire management of the external borders of the Union.
3. A European Intelligence Force should be established. It should have full access to information collected by Member States and Member States should have the binding obligation to provide it with all relevant information they collect. Prospectively, it should have its own intelligence capabilities and should be able to act directly across the territory of the Union.
4. A European Police Agency, based on Europol, with the competence to investigate serious crimes and terrorist activities affecting more than one Member State and supported by the work of the European Intelligence Force.
5. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office, as an evolution of Eurojust, should enjoy authority to prosecute crimes investigated by the European Police Agency. It should play a key role in securing the delicate balance between security and fundamental freedoms by ensuring the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU data protection legislation are respected in European police operations.
The Spinelli Group calls on the European Council on 17-18 December to support at least the latest proposals of the European Commission for establishing a European Border and Coast Guard and a modification of the Schengen Borders Code.