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European Security Forum 2014: Defining Europe’s Priorities

Dimitris Avramopoulos – Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship

Brussels, European Security Round table

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address the European Security Forum 2014.

As Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, I have been entrusted with the mission to turn security and mobility into the stepping stones for a Europe that is open and that grows without fear.

Today I wish to present some of the key principles that will guide my action in the coming five years.

Dear Friends,

In my hearing at the European Parliament, I stressed that openness and security were the pillars of the European Union.

The prerequisites for having social cohesion and sustainable economic growth in Europe.

President Jean-Claude Juncker entrusted me with the responsibility to address the challenges of migration.

Migration is about mobility.

In a globalised world, Europe has to maximise the benefits of international mobility.

Our external borders must be seen as a “safe door” to Europe: protected from illegal entry, but offering a safe passage for legitimate travellers and those in need of protection.

“Fortress Europe” is definitely not the answer to challenges we face.

We need to show solidarity with those affected by disturbing developments in our neighbourhood.

Managing the global issue of migration is about attaining the human resources that we need and at the same time neutralizing all those who seek to profit from human in need and desperation.

And definitely, to maintain our shared European identity which is all about safeguarding the Fundamental Rights.

First, Europe needs to attract diverse skills. A successful migration policy that brings skills and talent to Europe supports economic growth and the protection of the social model that we European citizens know.

Developing a new policy on regular migration will therefore be my top priority.

I will start by examining how the EU Blue Card, the EU-wide work permit for highly skilled workers, could be better used.

Second, European migration policy offers shelter and protection to those fleeing persecution and danger.

Being there, as a United Europe for people who face persecution and danger in our inflamed regional environment is not only a moral responsibility for Europe, but a real promise for Europe’s position in the world.

Thirdly, the victims of the Lampedusa tragedy are still in our mind.

We must step up efforts to prevent people from embarking the unseaworthy boats with a hope to reach Europe.

Traffickers and smugglers that take an advantage of people in distress will be faced with resolution.

They will be hunted down and I pledge to you that this Commission is determined to fight this battle.

Finally, we need to provide more efficient answers and to pool more resources in relation to the control of our external borders.

The EU Agency Frontex coordinates joint operations to provide assistance to the Member States at their external borders.

Frontex, must be further empowered.

At the same time, it is important that we make the best use of innovative technologies and solutions that enable increased cooperation and information exchange between the Member States.

Together with the relevant actors at the EU level, I will be exploring the creation of a European System of Border Guards.

I would now like to turn to the topic of a secure Europe that protects its citizens and their fundamental rights, that protects as well our way of living and our democratic values.

Let’s admit that no single Member State is able to respond effectively to threats such as international terrorism or organised crime on its own.

Cooperation at the European level complements the efforts of the Member States to safeguard national security.

Terrorism is a phenomenon that is constantly evolving.

Foreign terrorist fighters pose today one of the most pressing threats to our security.

The flow of European citizens and residents traveling to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist organisations pose a threat that is of unprecedented nature.

This phenomenon now involves more than 2,500 Europeans. Upon return, those jihadists may pose a significant threat, from radicalisation and recruitment, to the perpetration of terrorist attacks in Europe.

Six months ago, the terrorist attack conducted in Brussels Jewish Museum tragically illustrated how serious and real the threat is.

Security and law enforcement agencies have succeeded in preventing further attacks over the last months, and most recently in Germany.

The threat of foreign fighters remains severe with the entrenched terrorist presence in Syria and Iraq.

The proliferation of affiliated groups, including in North Africa, constitutes a worrying trend.

Our policy response to the threat of foreign fighters’ needs to focus above all on prevention; on making a better use of the existing tools; and on improving our capacity to detect people with ill intentions.

The Radicalisation Awareness Network has proved a valuable tool in the work on preventing Europeans, often young men or women, from becoming radicalised and joining terrorist groups.

I intend to take forward work with the Internet companies to counter online radicalisation, where Internet is used by terrorist groups to recruit Europeans.

Moreover, we need to effectively cut networks that facilitate terrorist activities from financing.

Implementation of the Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme and other instruments such as the network of Financial Intelligence Units and anti-money laundering initiative are crucial for that reason.

Another important aspect of stopping the foreign fighters is the timely detection of suspicious travels.

I am aware of the concerns expressed in some Member States as regards the functioning of Schengen rules.

Let me be clear: Schengen is not only one of the greatest achievements of the European integration. It is also a precious asset to increasing our internal security.

Quick fix solutions are by definition short-sighted and may ultimately prove counter-productive.

Europe will not move backwards, because some wish to spread fear amongst us.

The Schengen Borders Code is an existing tool that ensures a high level of Europe´s border security.

This tool could be made more efficient through a common approach to risk profiling so that more targeted controls could be performed on our borders.

I will oversee efforts to make sure that all Schengen states use effectively the Schengen Information System that enables information exchange between Member States and thus identification of suspects.

Due to the increased threat from foreign fighters, it is of utmost importance that we finalise work on the EU legislation that enables Member States to exchange data on Passenger Name Records, while making sure that the fundamental rights of citizens, in particular the protection of their data, is also ensured.

The use of this PNR data has proved to be a necessary tool to detect the travels of terrorists and criminals.

Upon return, combat-hardened jihadists may rely on their experience, including the use of sophisticated weaponry, to perpetrate attacks on our soil.

We need to develop innovative solutions and practical measures to increase the protection of vulnerable targets such as mass public events and critical infrastructure.

I have underlined the threat of foreign fighters, but of course the threat of organised crime should in no way be neglected.

Organised crime in Europe has broadened its scope over the past 25 years.

Criminals focus on drug trafficking, smuggling of weapons and people; distributing counterfeit and falsified goods and committing environmental crimes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I intend to present a Communication on a renewed Internal Security Strategy in spring 2015, further to a call from the European Parliament and the European Council.

With dangers and challenges present in our neighbourhood (Syria, Iraq, Ukraine), the EU has to define its interests, to identify the threats, to assess the risks and to formulate a European Security Model. This model needs to effectively protect citizens in Europe and around the world.

While the strategic objectives of the existing Internal Security Strategy remain valid, we need to put a bigger emphasis on the risk-based approach.

Each policy initiative needs to rely on a thorough and regular assessment of threats, risks and vulnerabilities.

Our security model will rely on a combination of preventive and protective measures, and the participation of a wide range of stakeholders.

Our priorities, are about a free and secure Europe.

We need to:

– Improve operational cooperation among Member States;

– Ensure that EU and its Member States can act jointly and in a spirit of solidarity in case of major crisis;

– Put the security of our citizens at the heart of Europe´s internal security policies;

– Ensure an effective information-sharing between the Member States’ law enforcement and judicial authorities, and the relevant EU agencies;

– Apply the data protection principle to internal security policies;

– Make an even better use of research and innovation in boosting security in Europe, notably through the Horizon 2020 programme;

– Ensure that all our actions are taken in full synergy with the EU´s external policies (including our Common Security and Defence Policy), such as in the field of capacity-building in third countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the field of migration and security, we cannot afford “business as usual”.

Europe has to act united now.

Thank you for your attention. Let me wish this forum great success and fruitful exchanges.