Making Europe a safer place for its citizens - EU monitor

EU monitor
Friday, October 18, 2019
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Source: Romanian presidency of the EU (Romanian presidency) i, published on Friday, May 3 2019.

A Safer Europe is one of the key commitments made by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council at the beginning of its mandate. The deliverables are significant and based on solidarity, pooling resources and information exchange.

Intensive negotiations amongst co-legislators ended successfully with agreement on the Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard, providing for a strengthening of the Agency in terms of staff and technical equipment, and giving it a broader mandate to support Member States’ activities on border protection, return and cooperation with third countries. The proposed new rules will incorporate the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into the Frontex i framework, to improve its functioning. To ensure coherent management of external borders and to be able to respond to future crisis situations, a standing corps will be set up, with up to 10.000 operational staff by 2027. This standing corps will include operational staff members from Frontex, staff from Member States under long-term secondments and/or short-term deployment, and a reserve for rapid reaction. The proposed rules will also allow Frontex to provide technical and operational support to Member States in return operations. The agency will provide this support at the request of the Member State concerned or on its own initiative but in agreement with that Member State. Last but not least, cooperation with third countries will be strengthened by giving the agency wider scope for action and not limiting its options for cooperation to just neighbouring countries. By the adoption of this new legislation, EU shows strong commitment towards improving the protection of its external borders as part of a comprehensive approach to migration.

This comprehensive approach to migration is also manifested through other initiatives, such as the strengthening of cooperation and coordination between liaison officers deployed to third countries by Member States or the EU in order to deal with immigration-related issues. Coordination between Member States in cooperation with third countries is essential to making sure that the EU’s response to illegal migration is as strong as possible. These new rules will allow us to make the most of the work of the liaison officers on the ground, including on issues like returns or fighting migrant smuggling.

Taking into account that criminality knows no borders, the EU is introducing new rules on interoperability between EU information systems in the area of justice and home affairs. Easier information sharing will improve security, allow for more efficient checks at external borders and contribute to preventing and combating illegal migration. To make sure those who pose a security threat or are lying about their identity are detected, competent authorities carrying out checks need to have a full picture of the persons in front of them. The interoperability components will allow authorities to quickly access all relevant information available in existing databases and to check biometric data against these databases in order to detect cases of multiple identity.

In order to reduce identity fraud, thereby making it harder for terrorists and criminals to act, while facilitating free movement of genuine travellers, the EU is introducing tighter security of ID cards of EU citizens and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their non-EU family members. The new rules will improve the security of these documents by introducing minimum standards both for the information contained in them and for the security features common to all Member States that issue them. These new rules will enter into force 2 years after adoption, meaning that by that time all new documents issued must meet the new criteria. The proposed rules include strong data protection safeguards, to ensure that the information collected does not fall into the wrong hands. In particular, national authorities will have to guarantee the security of the contactless chip and the data stored in it, so that it cannot be hacked or accessed without permission.

The strengthening of EU law enforcement authorities’ capacity to fight terrorism and serious crime, by improving their access to financial information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences, is another important achievement in the field of internal security. Since criminals proved to be able to transfer illicit funds across borders very quickly, law enforcement authorities should act even more quickly. The new rules will give law enforcement authorities a clear framework within which they can access and exchange financial information.

Changes to the EU visa code have also been adopted, to improve conditions for legitimate travellers and to also offer more tools for responding to the challenges posed by illegal migration.

As part of the broader effort to strengthen EU internal security, the Romanian Presidency has begun a future-oriented debate on the EU response to terrorism, focusing on practical and legislative gaps which need to be addressed, as well as on areas which should be regarded as priorities, taking into account current and emerging security threats.

Particular attention is given to preventing and countering radicalisation and violent extremism, both offline and online, with a special emphasis on boosting the exchange of expertise and best practices among Member States. The changing nature of the radicalization challenge has also been assessed, with a view to identifying possible options for an adapted response.

The strengthening of the cooperation with concerned partners on counter-terrorism is also high on the agenda of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council. New ways to best make use of internal EU security tools for supporting EU external action are being explored, in the framework of the wider effort to increase the synergies between the internal and external dimensions of security.

The Romanian Presidency also concluded the negotiations on the rules on marketing and use of explosive precursors, which tighten their availability to the general public. The new rules are stricter as regards the marketing and use of explosive precursors in the EU and ensure the appropriate reporting of suspicious transactions throughout the supply chain.

The reform of the Common European Asylum System was actively disputed in the first three months of the Romanian EU Presidency, in a push to move asylum files forward. Intensive negotiations both at the technical and political level were pursued in the framework of a ‘’package approach’’, as supported by the majority of the Member States.

Against this background, the Romanian Presidency took the lead and tackled the issue of ‘’temporary arrangements’’ with support from the European Commission. The impetus behind this effort was the need prevent ad-hoc measures and provide balanced solutions for migrants who are brought to Europe after Search and Rescue operations. The Romanian Presidency therefore invested a lot of energy in discussions, at the political level, with the goal of presenting a document of guidelines on procedures to be applied after disembarkation, as well as fashioning a sustainable mechanism based on voluntary relocation, solidarity and responsibility, by the end of May 2019.