24 January 2019

EUROPEAN UNION’S INTERNAL SECURITY FIELD IN 2018/ WILL 2019 BRING MORE SAFETY FOR THE UNION? (2019 FORECASTS - X)

Marian Tutilescu

Image source: Mediafax

Making a hindsight of the main evolutions in European Union’s internal security field from 2018, we should, on one hand, refer to those initiatives and measures which approached the most serious threats against EU’s security, and on the other hand, anticipate this field’s future evolutions, extremely important for Union’s condition.

Illegal migration and Common European Asylum System reform

From this point of view, we should bear in mind that the European Commission (EC) and the specialized European institutions (EUROPOL, European Border and Coast Guard Agency - FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office – EASO), have made great efforts, not only across their own activities, but especially in improving the cooperation with the law enforcement agencies from the member states.

It achieved, for example, for the illegal migrants’ number, who got on EU’s territory in those 11 months of 2018, to be around 138.000, decreasing with 30% in comparison with the same period of the previous year. Yet, there were significant changes across the dynamic of the migration flows related to the four main routes, respectively the migration flow decreased on East Mediterranean (with 42%), Central Mediterranean (with 83%) and Western Balkans (with 18%), but it has been increased the number of illegal entries in West Mediterranean (with 29%) in comparison with 2017. 

We expect the migration flow to maintain its decreasing trend in 2019, mainly as a result of EC’s and European External Action Service’s measures, regarding the negotiation and signing of some readmission agreements with countries which are major migration sources, like Morocco, Tunis, Nigeria, but also as a consequence of FRONTEX and EUROPOL’s coordinated actions with the member states and with those source countries, to combat the migrant smuggling of the cross-border criminal networks.

Unfortunately, those 2018 two successive presidencies of EU’s Council, Bulgaria and Austria, have not accomplished the assumed priorities in home affairs field, hence, the most important legislative package regarding the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) reform, did not meet a noticeable progress. In fact, none of Commission’s 7 legislative proposals from the CEAS package, launched at the negotiation table 2 years and a half ago, were concluded until the end of 2018.

EC’s recent decision regarding the separate approach of the 7 legislative initiatives related to CEAS package would allow, in the following period, until the end of the incumbent Commission mandate, to conclude the Regulations regarding FRONTEX and EASO’s operational capacity increase, the Regulation about upgrade of the EURODAC  system  and the Decision regarding the standardisation of asylum procedures. Hardly these projects or, at least, part of them, will fully accomplish the adoption process, including the trialogue with the European Parliament, during the Romanian Presidency of JHA’s Council. This may occur due to the big number of files which were taken from previous presidencies in different stages of the adoption  process, their complexity and the short activity time with EC and EP, given the Euro-parliamentary elections which are at the corner.

There are also small chances of the completion of the Dublin Regulation project in the following year, dues to the strong opposition of Visegrád Group’s countries and especially of Hungary, although it is the most important legislative file across CEAS.

Given these circumstances, we should bear in mind that, although at EU’s external borders there were achieved significant progresses during the last year, there are no noticeable  evolutions in managing migrants situation on EU’s territory. The significant migrants flows which affected some member states, like Germany, Italy, France, Spain, have raised huge internal political debates, which ended with the strong erosion of the governing parties, increasing the popularity of the nationalist, euro skeptical parties, across the electorate.

We expect for the same situation to happen also at the forthcoming Europarliamentary elections, which will definitely lead to a heterogenous structure of the future European Parliament. Consequently, there will be major difficulties in appointing the members of the future European bodies,  manifested by delays of the process, but also offering some key positions in these bodies to people who have different visions than the ones the EU was found on: solidarity and accountability. Hence, it will complicate even more the adoption process of some essential EC legislative proposals to manage the illegal migration.

We could only imagine how much the situation would complicate in the EU zone, in a scenario alike the one speculated by the Belgian prime-minister, Charles Michel, at the last European Council from December 2018. He was raising a rhetoric question, if Visegrád Group’s member states (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia), which oppose the burden sharing principle between the member states in managing migration, should still be Schengen Space’s members. Of course, such a scenario is not desirable because if that would happen, it would surely smash the European construction.

Combating terrorism

Commission’s main accomplishment in 2018 in this field was the presentation of High-Level Commission  Experts Group’s Report on Radicalisation, a report which evaluated the European situation in this field and made some recommendations.

Based on the lessons learned from the last terrorist attacks, wherein the attackers were the so-called “lone wolfs”, the recommendations are mainly referring to focusing all the radicalisation combat efforts in prisons, but also on the launch of some online campaigns, to combat the recruitment and the use of vulnerable people in terrorist attacks. The Commission already launched a project dedicated to non-governmental organizations and civil society from the member states, aiming to propose initiatives and online campaigns against radicalisation, a project to be implemented in the following 24 months by the winner consortium, composed of at least three entities from different member states.

We expect the effectiveness of the information exchanges between the member states, in terrorism combat field, to be significantly increased, thanks to the result of 2018’s operationalization of the national contact points across the program related to passengers’ airline record (Passenger Name Record- PNR) collected and shared among the member states, following the decision adopted in 2016 by the EU Parliament and JHA Council.

Brexit’s impact over the Home Affairs field

The British parliament will resume, on 9th of January, the debates over the agreement with EU regarding Brexit and the final vote is expected to be taken between 14-19 of January.

Theresa May’s calls at the last European Council, to get new guarantees from EU regarding the so-called back-stop, in order to avoid the insertion of a physical border between Republic of Ireland and the British region Northern Ireland, were rejected by the European leaders, who consider this demand as being too ambiguous. British opponents’ concerns regarding this solution which is mentioned in the treaty is that, being an unlimited period solution, it could endlessly block United Kingdom (UK) in a custom union with EU, hence the solution could actually be a limited period of time back-stop, which, for now, the European officials do not accept.

Consequently, there are serious concerns about British Parliament’s refusal to approve the treaty about UK exit from the EU, therefore, the British minister for the relation with the Parliament, Andrea Leadsom, called, for the first time, on an alternative to a no-deal Brexit situation, respectively a managed no-deal Brexit, which means a minimal agreement with the EU, for the UK to have a less sharp exit and, implicitly, to diminish a no-deal Brexit consequences. This last alternative is just a speculation at the moment, as well as the idea of a new referendum which, in our evaluation, could not be taken into consideration.

To decrease the harsh impact of a no-deal Brexit over the EU and its citizens, the European Commission prepared a contingency plan, which foresees measures to be implemented after 29th of March, about the right to stay and work of the EU citizens on UK’s territory, respectively UK citizens on EU’s territory, but also some regulations in finance, transports and custom taxes fields.

In this contingency plan there are no measures related to the future cooperation of the UK with the EU in home affairs field, hence, if a no-deal Brexit will happen on 29th of March, UK will have the status of a third country in relationship with the EU countries and none of EU’s regulations in the field will be applicable.

This would have serious consequences over the EU’s internal security, but especially over the United Kingdom. The operational exchange of information could be developed only at a bilateral level, through the home affairs attachés or through the liason officers, accredited besides  the diplomatic missions. The cooperation in tracking and arresting people wanted by a arrest warrant could be made only through Interpol, with the subsequent application of the extradition procedure, if the ones wanted were tracked on UK’s territory, for the warrants issued by the judicial authorities form the EU member states, respectively of a EU member state, for the warrants issued by the British authorities.

If the British Parliament will approve the current deal project, until the end of the transition period (31.12.2020), UK can apply all the cooperation tools it has at the moment in the cooperation relationship with the EU member states. Of course, after the transition period, it will have a third country status, but it would also have the necessary time to negotiate the cooperation with EU, with EU’s agencies (Europol, Frontex, Eurojust), or at a bilateral level, with the member states, to access some of the cooperation tools of the home affairs field.

Given the huge EU citizens communities on UK’s territory, it is even more interested in using Union’s cooperation tools, or at least part of them, but it will have to start these negotiations immediately after clarifying the exit situation.

Brexit’s impact over Romania’s police and judicial cooperation with United Kingdom

Romanians are the second biggest community on UK’s territory, estimated, according to official statistics, to 411.000 people. Romanian community’s increasing number is absolutely spectacular given that in June 2016, according to official records, they were only 272.000. As for the number of sentenced people for breaking the legislation of the residence country, Romanians are also on the second position (after the Polish), in a top 5 reffering to crimes committed by foreigners on UK’s territory.

From this point of view, the British authorities will obviously be more interested in cooperating with Romania but, unfortunately, the cooperation tools a third contry is having, are less effective that an EU member state. This is why the amount of the information shared through those home affairs attachés from each state, accredited besides  the diplomatic missions  from London and Bucharest, will significantly increase, but there will be also some restraints regarding personal data protection. Furthermore, the response time will grow comparing with the current situation of automatic search in the database and, implicitly, it will influence the duration of criminal files investigations. 

We expect the UK to negotiate an opt-in solution with EU for some of its cooperation tools in home affairs field, which would be opposable for all member states, before the transition period, if the current Brexit deal will be approved or, after the 29th of March, if the current Brexit deal  is to be rejected by the British Parliament. However, such a negotiation will take time and it is likely to face some difficulties in a no-deal Brexit alternative, given that such a situation would lead to a sudden interruption of all the pending activities, with serious consequences for both sides.

We will soon find out how it will end the biggest challenge the community project faced until now, after a wide range of accomplishments which changed Union’s citizens lives. We could only think about the free movement, the single currency or the funds allocated to develop the member states.

We cannot but hope that discernment will win and UK’s exit deal will be approved by the British Parliament, which would offer the necessary time to negotiate the most effective solutions to ensure the internal security of both entities.

Yearly Review: 2018 Security Agenda in a nutshell

What will 2018 be remembered for, at different layers of security

  • National
  • European
  • Internațional