Europe has had to face a nightmare in the last 12 months: terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Germany which resulted in fatalities and injured people. Some will have to deal with this horror for the rest of their lives, and we all have those images in our minds which just won’t go away.
Modern terrorists are very well organised and are working across all borders. To tackle this problem in 2015 the EU established the Agenda on European Security and the first progress report has been released recently.
The report outlines the Commission’s efforts in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime, as well as the work to be undertaken in order to strengthen the EU’s resilience against these threats. It also highlights the priority areas where more work is needed and sets out specific operational measures for the months to come.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “The fragmentation of our security framework makes us all vulnerable. The dots have to be connected within and between member states, but also between member states and EU agencies, and between the different security and border management systems. The internal security of one member state is the internal security of all. In this rapidly changing security environment delivering on a genuine and effective security union means delivering on all elements.”
Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “Terrorists don’t target one member state or another. They target our way of life, our openness, our future. Our response needs to be comprehensive and sustainable, building on trust and the effective cooperation between institutions and Member States.”
You can read the full report here.
In the report you will find a section on Europol: “the Commission will also take the necessary steps to enable the European Counter Terrorism Centre at Europol to provide 24/7 support to member states”.
The EU is now taking steps to improve the security of all citizens by establishing new specialist agencies. Only last week it launched a new border and coast guard agency cooperating with police forces across Europe and supported by Europol.
So what is Europol? From an official press release: “Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency whose main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. We do this by assisting the European Union’s Member States in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism. More than 900 staff at Europol headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands, work closely with law enforcement agencies in the 28 EU member states and in other non-EU partner states, such as Australia, Canada, the USA and Norway”.
While the new measures are certainly a step in the right direction, Europe needs a higher level of policing. We don’t have a federal bureau like the FBI in the United States of America, but we desperately need one. We need more manpower, specialised units and agents who are allowed to operate across all member states, who are able to interact with local police, information services, and who can assume jurisdiction and senior authority in certain cases. Europol needs to become more than only a data and information base of 900 specialists. It needs to be the EFBI. Imagine an EU-wide agency with field offices in every member state, staffed by local officers who have local knowledge, but also with a higher level of infrastructure and an ability to react faster and more efficiently in major criminal investigative issues. Backed up by federal jurisdiction, they would be able to pull in resources from all over Europe and not have to rely on local officers hamstrung by poor policing infrastructure due to financial cutbacks on a state level. This would not only help to speed up crime investigations, but would also free up local police to attend to social issues and develop better resources on a local level.
Most importantly, the EFBI would contribute immensely towards the continuation of the freedom that all EU citizens enjoy. Closing borders does not work. Intelligence, universal co-operation and connected resources do and the only way to do that is to think bigger.