The European Union faces ever-changing and increasingly complex security threats. Criminals make the most of the advantages offered by the digital revolution while advances in technology have opened up new channels for criminals to commit offences and to do so with impunity.
They take advantages of loopholes in regulations and the darkness of the internet to evade action by the police and court authorities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation and created ideal conditions for the spread of crime.
Criminals have been quick to adapt their modus operandi to the new circumstances and know how to exploit this situation, developing new illicit activities.
In the face of this changing landscape, the EU’s security challenges have increased and so have their complexity. The European Commission has identified cybercrime (including identity theft), child abuse and exploitation, hybrid threats, and misinformation as the main challenges.
The latter arises as a destabilising strategy originating with foreign actors but increasingly supported by internal forces within the European Union, all of whom seek the same objective - to erode our democratic systems. The focus is also on the terrorist threat, particularly on its sources of funding.
The increase in organised crime is of particular concern, ranging from human trafficking to the firearms trade, drug trafficking and financial, economic, and environmental crime.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation and created ideal conditions for the spread of crime. Criminals have been quick to adapt their modus operandi to the new circumstances and know how to exploit this situation, developing new illicit activities”
The European Security Union Strategy 2020-2025 offers responses to existing problems and emerging challenges. To do so, it establishes the instruments and measures that must be developed to ensure our physical and digital surroundings are secure, bringing a catalogue of actions that must add value to help Member States promote the security of all citizens.
The European Parliament welcomed the new Strategy in a resolution adopted during the December plenary session last year.
The resolution comprehensively reviewed the main issues addressed by the Strategy and the adopted text highlights the fact that the terrorist threat to the EU remains at a high level.
It also underlines the need to combat radicalisation and highlights the need to combat child abuse both online and offline. It also stressed the essential need to promote cooperation and exchange information.
Here, the importance of strengthening the mandate of the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, has also been underlined. In addition, there is a focus on the need to promote mutual trust between judicial authorities and to improve mutual recognition of their resolutions.
Emphasis is also placed on the importance of judicial cooperation as a necessary complement to police efforts, while special attention is paid to victims’ rights, the fight against corruption and the challenges of end-to-end encryption.
“Today, we Europeans live in a shared space, a territory without internal borders. That space of freedom, security and justice requires us to deploy common policies from the heart of the EU that facilitate internal security, effective justice, and a strong protection of citizens’ public freedoms”
The EU institutions are working towards the objective of adopting legislative proposals that will allow progress in achieving the goals set out by the Strategy. For example, the regulations for the prevention of the dissemination of terrorist content online have already been adopted.
Other key proposals are undergoing the approval process, including those on e-evidence regulation, a new Europol mandate, the temporary repeal of various provisions of the e-privacy Directive in fighting child sexual abuse, several proposals aimed at improving information exchange systems and initiatives to move forward with the digitalisation of the justice system.
New proposals that will allow further progress in meeting the Strategy’s objectives are also expected.
Today, we Europeans live in a shared space, a territory without internal borders. That space of freedom, security, and justice requires us to deploy common policies from the heart of the EU that facilitate internal security, effective justice and a strong protection of citizens’ public freedoms.
However, we will only be able to fulfil that commitment if we move towards a Security Union at pace and with the ambition that the response to the threats to the rights and freedoms of Europeans demands.
The Security Union must begin by being just that; a ‘union’, with the pooling of resources, capacities, and objectives based on mutual trust and the shared purpose of better serving citizens.