The Forum at the conference on the funding of EU Home Affairs: no to building a European fortress

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Four hundred people representing the 27 European Union member states, the Home Affairs and Justice directorates, NGOs and other European institutions attended the conference “The future of EU funding for Home Affairs: a fresh look”, which took place on April 8, 2011, in Brussels. The objective was to contribute to establishing the EU Home Affairs budget for the next four years.

The general themes on which delegates focused were procedures and budget simplification, in the name of the fight against bureaucracy. Everyone seemed to agree the budget should be divided among funds allocated to migrations and funds allocated to field actions in the fight against crime. Mercedes Bresso, president of the Committee of the Regions, took a political stance when she mentioned social policies that contribute to development. But overall, migration was the main topic: now more than ever, the phenomenon is ranked among the major threats against the EU, on a par with organised and economic crime.

The Efus was invited to speak at a session on Home security and the issue of borders, together with the European agency Frontex (based in Warsaw and in charge of coordinating the operational cooperation between member states in the field of border security), the European Law Enforcement Agency Europol, Christophe Prince, Justice and Home Affairs counsellor at the United Kingdom permanent mission in Brussels. The session was presided by counsellor Laura Yli-Vakkuri, Director General for International Affairs at the Finnish Ministry of the Interior.

The intervention of the Forum was focused on the following points:

–              The division of the former Justice and Home Affairs Directorate in two separated Directorates is detrimental because it can lead to a lack of coherence in European external policies.

–                     The role of cities in European policy: the weight of economic immigration is actually carried by cities, since it affects their local budget. The Greek city of Alexandroupolis is a case in point. While Europe can act when faced with an emergency situation, it does not know how to organise medium and long term actions.

–                     A sound security policy requires a proactive prevention policy, based on a global, holistic approach. Such a security policy should be integrated with development policies.

–                     A global, European security policy requires that national legislations be harmonised, in order to improve the prevention of certain criminal activities. We should in particular standardise the status of women who are victim of human trafficking so that they would be automatically granted a residency permit in all European countries.

–                     Europe used to rely on authoritarian regimes to curb immigration. Now, we must learn to cooperate with fledgling democracies, and demand democratic justice and police systems that respect human and civil rights. A Tunisian frontier police officer acting within a police force that is hated at home will not be able to work efficiently. The same goes for justice systems and overall civil rights protection.

–                     Our borders must be perceived as being flexible, unless we want to build a European fortress that curbs fundamental rights and allows organised crime to flourish, in particular trafficking in human beings. One only needs to look at the situation in Mexico: the whole country is invaded by organised crime because its frontier attracts massive number of migrants.

–                     Migration control must be implemented and coordinated in three ways: along the frontier with surrounding countries, there has to be development areas that include education and training facilities and schemes; inside European cities, there must be an internal frontier and measures facilitating integration and repatriation in countries of origin;  the geographical frontiers within Europe must enforce identical entry rules. There should be a specific status for human trafficking victims, adults and children.

This concept based on flexibility can be the basis for the definition of the European budget, which indeed needs such flexibility if it is to finance a global and integrated policy. Such a policy is best implemented by local partners and with horizontal cooperation.  Efus has proven that it is possible thanks to its programmes on wandering youths and trafficking of victims of sexual abuse.

Security policy should always be conceived as a tool for a local democracy based on the development of social, cultural and political rights. If security policy is considered as the main pillar of development, it is dangerous.

More: read the article of the Comittee of the Regions