European Security Union Strategy: Beefing up EU security

The European Parliament's Security Union Strategy resolution takes a multi-pronged approach to developing a future-proof security environment, explains Juan Fernando López Aguilar.
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By Juan Fernando López Aguilar

Juan Fernando López Aguilar (ES, S&D) is the Chair of Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

08 Jun 2021

Last December, EU leaders met during the European Parliament plenary session to discuss the EU Security Union Strategy for the period 2020 to 2025. The Strategy, unveiled by the European Commission in July 2020, sets out the tools and measures to be developed over the next five years for ensuring common security in our shared physical and digital environment.

According to the Commission, we should focus on those priority areas where the EU can bring clear added value to support Member States in fostering security assets for all those living in the EU. 

It lays out four strategic priorities for action at EU level: developing a future-proof security environment; tackling evolving threats; protecting EU citizens from terrorism and organised crime, as well as building a strong EU security ecosystem.

Three immediate initiatives work in tandem with this: the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse; a new EU agenda and action plan on drugs, and the EU action plan on firearms trafficking.

“Bearing in mind that security is a fundamental right of European citizenship, our Resolution conveys the message that EU security policy must be grounded in the common values upon which the EU was founded”

While building on existing EU legislation and initiatives, the Strategy proposes a number of new legislative and non-legislative measures.

In December, the European Parliament adopted a significant Resolution on the EU Security Union Strategy (of which I was rapporteur), thereby establishing our position regarding its main components.

Bearing in mind that security is a fundamental right of European citizenship, our Resolution conveys the message that EU security policy must be grounded in the common values upon which the EU was founded, including the principles of democracy, rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights.

Our Resolution makes it clear that since there is a legal framework in the field of internal security already in place, Member States must now focus on implementing it effectively. 

However, shortcomings remain when it comes to various Legislative acts, such as the 2011 Directive on Combating Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Children, or the 2012 Protection of Victims Directive.

New legislative and non-legislative initiatives must plug the gaps in the current regulatory framework. Furthermore, every new legislative proposal must also be accompanied by a relevant impact assessment, as is mandatory in the field of fundamental rights.

Our Resolution also covers several important areas in the fight against serious cross-border crime, including terrorism, organised crime, illicit drugs and money laundering as well as disinformation and the role of the nine EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Agencies.

Although the number of terrorist attacks decreased in 2019, previous reports and, sadly, recent events have shown that the terrorism threat in the EU remains high.

Therefore, our Resolution welcomes the Commission’s recent Counter-Terrorism Agenda, stressing the importance of taking a holistic approach in preventing and countering radicalisation, combining security, education, social, cultural and anti-discrimination policies, and involving all the relevant stakeholders.

Regarding the priority on tackling organised crime, our Resolution echoes previous calls made by the European Parliament as to the need for a revision of the 2008 Council Framework Decision on the fight against organised crime and highlighting the urgency for setting out a shared common definition of what organised crime means.

Our Resolution welcomes the Commission’s proposal to confirm, through the adoption of a new EU Agenda on Drugs, the EU and Member States’ commitment to protecting citizens’ health and security from drugs-related threats. The EU’s drugs policy should continue to pursue an integrated, balanced, multidisciplinary, evidence and human rights-based approach. 

“Recent events have shown that the terrorist threat in the EU remains high. Therefore, our Resolution welcomes the Commission’s recent Counter-Terrorism Agenda, stressing the importance of taking a holistic approach in preventing and countering radicalisation”

Our Resolution also shines a light on all of the major threats posed by disinformation to both democracy and security, especially when amplified by new technologies.

While taking note of recent efforts to combat this menace across the EU (such as the European Democracy Action Plan), it also strongly calls on the Commission to make combating disinformation an integral pillar of our Security Union Strategy, by allocating adequate funding both from the EU Budget and from Member States.

A valuable complementary tool of EU Internal Security lies in the institutional setup of the EU security-related Agencies such as Europol, Cepol and Eurojust, among other organisational arrangements within the European External Action Service - the work of which is acknowledged in the wording of our Resolution, thus calling for its proper funding and staffing in order for the EU to deliver on the Security Union Strategy.

Some other important areas which we tackled in our Resolution include child sexual abuse online; migrant smuggling; human trafficking and the protection of and assistance to its vulnerable victims; gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence; police and judicial cooperation between Member States based on mutual recognition of judicial decisions and victims’ rights. Securing EU security - that is what this work-in-progress is all about.

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