New Packages for External Borders and Internal Security

Legal - May 8, 2024

The European Union faces complex security challenges, particularly in the context of immigration and cross-border movement of people. The phenomenon of migration has shaped many of Europe’s major geopolitical dynamics in recent years. In particular, since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the so-called Balkan route has become the most used route for those trying to reach Europe from the Middle East. This situation has created a real migration crisis for which the European Union was unprepared. This situation gives the Union not only a moral but also a political responsibility to protect its citizens from possible threats, such as the infiltration of terrorists and criminals across its external borders. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that many bad actors take advantage of the differences in security legislation between Member States, in particular with regard to the collection and management of personal data. These regulatory differences allow dangerous individuals to move anonymously within the EU, often by changing their identity and personal details, such as name or date of birth, in order to evade control systems.

In recent years, several acts of terrorism and other threats to public security have been perpetrated by extremists exploiting these vulnerabilities. It is well documented that many of these extremists, linked to currents of radical Islamism, have crossed the EU’s external borders using irregular migration routes from both the South and the East. These routes are often facilitated by organised criminal networks, including those involved in human trafficking, which exploit human desperation to profit from unregulated and dangerous population movements.

Faced with this growing problem, the European Union has felt the need to join forces to provide a more coordinated and effective response. Under the influence and impetus of the ECR Party, the approach towards more organic and integrated legislation, including stricter controls not only at points of entry, such as airports, but also through enhanced judicial cooperation between Member States, has been decisive. This new legislation aims to standardise control and information exchange procedures to close existing loopholes that have allowed dangerous individuals to exploit inconsistencies between national systems.

The implementation of these measures will require joint efforts and shared responsibilities at all levels of government in the Union in order to ensure not only internal security, but also external border security, which is crucial for maintaining the integrity and stability of the entire European area. This joint effort is an essential step in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, thus safeguarding the fundamental values and security of European citizens.

Data collection and judicial effectiveness

A major legislative milestone was reached in the recent session of the European Parliament, marking a significant step forward in the field of cross-border criminal justice. By an overwhelming majority of 604 votes in favour, 2 against and 6 abstentions, a new law was adopted that introduces clearer and more definitive rules for the transfer of criminal proceedings between different EU Member States. This legislation was designed to meet specific needs: to speed up investigations and make the administration of justice more efficient in transnational contexts.

The need for such a law arises from the increasing number of cases involving individuals and crimes that cross national borders. In an increasingly interconnected Europe, cross-border crime has become a constant challenge for judicial authorities, making smoother legal and procedural cooperation between Member States indispensable. The old legislation no longer adequately met these needs, as proceedings were often slowed down by bureaucratic complications, regulatory inconsistencies and obstacles to the communication and transfer of documents and evidence.

The new law aims to overcome these obstacles by introducing a clear and harmonised legal framework to facilitate the exchange of information and judicial cooperation. Among the most important changes are the introduction of stricter procedural deadlines for the transfer of documents and evidence and the standardisation of mutual legal assistance requests. These changes are designed to reduce waiting times and eliminate legal uncertainties that can undermine the effectiveness of investigations and trials.

In addition, the new legislation provides support and safeguards to ensure that the rights of those involved in cross-border criminal proceedings are fully respected. This includes the right to legal assistance and translation of legal documents, which are fundamental to ensuring that justice is accessible and fair, regardless of the nationality of the person concerned or the country in which he or she is located.

The adoption of this law is a concrete example of how European cooperation can be strengthened to meet the modern challenges of crime and criminal justice. It not only improves the EU’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to cross-border crime, but also strengthens the sense of common justice and legal certainty within the EU, which is essential to maintain citizens’ confidence in the European legal system.

The adoption of the new legislation was warmly welcomed by ECR rapporteur Assita Kanko: “The new rules – she said after the vote – are a crucial step towards better judicial cooperation and faster prosecutions. This is particularly important when investigating international terrorism, trafficking in human beings, drugs and firearms, smuggling of migrants, cybercrime or money laundering”. The increase in efficiency will therefore have a very positive impact on the defence of the internal security of the countries of the European Union: “With this law, we will now ensure that justice works better in all EU countries and that our citizens are protected and respected,” said MEP Assita Kanko. In the area of external border protection, the European Parliament has also approved new ways in which Member States will be able to strengthen entry controls: passenger data will be automatically collected in a single European database when passengers check in at a central European hub. Assita Kanko explained: “Every year the EU records around 1 billion air passengers, half of whom cross the EU’s external borders. The vast majority are well-intentioned, but unfortunately criminals and terrorists hide among the passenger flows”. According to Kanko, “the new law will streamline the collection of passenger data that already takes place and close the gaps that criminals and terrorists exploit. It will help our police and justice services to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. The gradual move to more automated data collection will further improve the travel experience,” said MEP Kanko. The declared intention is clear: “We are strengthening the EU’s external borders – she said – and getting a better handle on terrorists and other criminals. Honest travellers will only benefit from automation,” concluded Kanko.

The challenge from a conservative point of view

The defence of Europe’s borders is an issue of the highest priority for the entire European Union, especially in times of global challenges and emerging threats. The fight against illegal immigration is part of this broader context and is one of the key aspects of ensuring internal security. Indeed, the agreements already concluded between the European institutions and the North African countries have proved their effectiveness in stopping thousands of traffickers who exploit the vulnerability of borders to carry out their illegal activities.

In today’s geopolitical context, the European Union faces a number of challenges with regard to migration management and border security. To address these challenges, the EU has adopted several strategies, including the externalisation of its borders. This approach, which started with the agreements between Brussels and Ankara in 2016, was confirmed in 2024 with the EU-Egypt agreement.

These agreements are only one part of a more complex and multifaceted approach to border security. The importance of these agreements goes far beyond the mere prevention of irregular migration: they play an important role in preventing organised crime networks and terrorist groups from infiltrating and operating in the EU area. Europe, with its history and values of openness and freedom, cannot afford to be held hostage by such nefarious forces. Border security is therefore not only a physical barrier against the illegal entry of individuals, but also a bulwark against the infiltration of extremist and dangerous ideologies.

In strengthening its borders, the EU must also take into account respect for human rights and due process, and ensure that the measures taken do not undermine the fundamental principles on which the EU is founded. This is a complex challenge that requires a balanced policy that can integrate security and respect for rights.

The promise of renewed internal security is one of the main flags that the European right has flown in response to these complex challenges. By advocating stricter and more coordinated policies, the European Right aims to introduce significant innovations in security policy. These include not only the strengthening of border controls, but also increased cooperation between the police and security forces of the different member states, as well as the implementation of advanced technologies for monitoring and surveillance.

It is also essential that these measures are accompanied by increased international cooperation. Europe must work closely with countries of origin and transit to address the root causes of irregular migration and trafficking, such as poverty, political instability and conflict. Only an approach that combines rigorous controls with a commitment to development and stability can provide sustainable, long-term solutions to the challenges Europe faces.