Paris, France, January 2021 – Succeeding Slovenia, France took on the rotating presidency of the European Union on 1 January until 30 June, forming a “trio” with Czechia (1 July-31 December) and Sweden (1 January-30 June 2023).
Does the EU presidency have executive power?
No. On the contrary, the presiding country has a duty to listen and be neutral. The terms ‘presidency of the European Union’ actually refer to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, not to be confused with the European Council, which gathers chiefs of state and of government and does have an executive role.
The Council of the European Union gathers European ministers according to their portfolio (Justice, Economy, Environment, etc.) and will be thus led for the next six months by French ministers. The reality is that the presidency entails coordinating hundreds of meetings between the 27 ministerial teams, dealing with all the major domains of European policy. The political orientation of the government of the presiding country does however influence to a certain degree the EU’s strategic orientations and choice of priorities.
What priorities for urban security?
The programme of the French Presidency highlights a number of topics on which Efus and its members have been working for a long time, notably the prevention of and fight against radicalisation and polarisation, discriminatory violence and violence against women, policies on drugs, and European cooperation in crisis management and civil protection.
– Concerning polarisation and violent radicalisation, the Presidency will focus on the fight against terrorism and securing the European territory, but also on promoting the “current reflection on the project of an EU Knowledge Hub for the prevention of radicalisation. The Presidency also intends to combat the behaviour of individuals and entities who, through their words and actions, incite radicalisation and acts of violence.” This is in line with the EU’s priorities, notably its Security Union Strategy, which seeks, through a holistic approach, to “build a real security ecosystem”, in the words of EU Vice-President Margaritis Schinas. In the area of the prevention of radicalisation as in other areas of work, Efus seeks greater recognition for the role of local and regional authorities as well as local actors in prevention policies. This is reflected in the work carried out through several European projects: IcARUS, BRIDGE (2019-2021), LOUD (2019-2021), PRACTICIES (2017-2020), PREPARE (Preventing Radicalisation Through Probation and Release) (2017–2019), and Local Voices (Local Communication Strategies to Prevent Extremism) (2017–2018). This work could contribute to the European knowledge hub mentioned in the Presidency’s programme (without further detail for now), in particular the recent publications of the BRIDGE and LOUD projects (respectively, Understanding and addressing polarisation at the local level and When local authorities and young people from nine European cities mobilise against intolerance and extremism).
– Concerning discriminatory and gender violence, the Presidency “will support the Commission’s proposal to extend the list of offences covered by Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union* regarding hate speech and hate crime.” It will also “work on the upcoming proposal of the European Commission on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence.”
The prevention of and fight against discriminatory violence is a key area of work for Efus. Its most recent projects in this respect are LOUD, which concerns both the areas of discrimination and of radicalisation, and MATCH (2019-2020) on the prevention of discriminatory violence in amateur sport. The final publication of this project (Preserving amateur sport cohesive capacity by fighting discriminatory violence at the local level) has been available since June 2021. Before that, Efus led in 2015-2017 the Just&Safer Cities for All project , which sought to raise awareness among European local and regional authorities on their role in preventing discriminatory violence, and to increase their knowledge in this domain.
Furthermore, Efus has been working since its foundation (in 1987) on the issue of violence against women (see our website’s dedicated section) and advocates including the gender perspective in all security public policies.
– Concerning drug policies, the Presidency’s position chimes with that of Efus, which is to consider the question of trafficking “in its duality as a security and health issue.” It adds that “the revision of the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction should contribute to achieving this goal.” Efus has been working for years on drug prevention policies, promoting a harm reduction approach as well as the respect of users’ fundamental rights. Efus is a member of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs, a 45-member expert group to the European Commission, which seeks to provide a platform for dialogue between the Commission and the European civil society on drugs. The most recent European project led by Efus was SOLIDIFY (2018-2019) on supervised consumption rooms. Since 1998, Efus has produced 11 publications on the issue of drugs, the most recent of which was SOLIDIFY – Reinforcing Harm Reduction Strategies at the Local Level – the Role of Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities (2020).
– Finally, with the Covid pandemic still raging on, the Presidency considers it a priority to strengthen cooperation among Member States on crisis management and civil protection. The French Presidency will take great care to “strengthen the capacity of the European Union to manage crises” by improving preparedness, developing the EU’s response capacity and resilience to new crises, and learning from the response to the pandemic. While European local and regional authorities were facing unprecedented crises over the past few years, not only the Covid pandemic but also a series of climate disasters (floods, fires, storms), Efus was a partner in the ALARM project on cross-border cooperation between France and Belgium on civil protection. Furthermore, Efus is a partner in the RiskPACC project, which seeks to improve coordination between civil protection agencies and citizens in order to strengthen resilience to disasters.
Why does it concern Efus?
As a network of European local and regional authorities, Efus is directly concerned by European policies affecting the domains on which works, not only because such policies influence or are inspired by national policies in the 17 countries where Efus has members, but also because an important part of its activity is carried out through EU-funded projects.
Furthermore, Efus conducts advocacy activities with the European institutions to voice the concerns of local and regional authorities regarding urban security and promote balanced policies based on prevention, sanction and social cohesion.
For historical reasons, Efus has strong links with France and with the French Forum for Urban Security (FFSU), which regularly meets with French public authorities. Efus can thus hope that, perhaps more so than with other Presidencies, this semester will strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the European institutions on key urban security issues.
* which defines transnational crimes as: terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime. See: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A12008E083