As a convinced European, it is my firm belief that the Schengen area is one of the biggest and most significant achievements of the European project, and that we should all vigilantly take care that under no circumstances will it be undermined by political considerations.
In times of threat, the populist approach would be to impose restrictions and sanctions. But we know that these kinds of proposals only serve a political purpose and most often rely on pure myth and misleading facts. Measures to protect the territory of the EU should not happen at the expense of human rights and freedom of movement, the core values on which the European Union lies. In that sense, the key to border security in the EU is not through more means for control, neither through more restrictions or new legislation, but rather, I believe, through a strengthened cooperation between the member states. We should also promote cooperation on an equal footing – countries such as Bulgaria should not be treated differently – and should enjoy the same opportunities for cooperation as any other member state, considering that countries such as Bulgaria are entrusted with and responsible for safeguarding the EU frontiers and its areas of security, freedom and justice.
Another measure that could be taken to improve use of the existing EU provisions, for example Europol, the Schengen information system and Frontex, would be to foster a better data knowhow exchange and enhance communications between the member states, in order to prevent any possible threats, inside or outside.
"While enhancing cooperation and development with third countries, a holistic and comprehensive approach towards migration must be taken at EU level"
The example of the current debate on how to best protect our society from terrorist attack is quite symptomatic. Is it really necessary and proportionate to advocate for a greater and broader collection of personal data without any specific targeting if there is no effective and lawful sharing of information among member states police and justice authorities? We should first guarantee that the data already collected by the law enforcement authorities at national level is used to its fullest. Then we can look at the compliance and efficiency of the proposed and implemented measures.
We must preserve the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, but we can certainly not turn a blind eye to what is happening right at our borders, paying a bit more attention as well to the roots of these phenomenona. While enhancing cooperation and development with third countries, a holistic and comprehensive approach towards migration must be taken at EU level.
It is our responsibility, as pro-European policymakers to respond adequately to the new challenges of migration, to put an end to the unacceptable tragedies in the Mediterranean reported almost every day, and to protect people from international threats such as terrorism and organised crime. But it is also our duty, when addressing these questions and putting forward our policy responses, to ensure that we respect and uphold the fundamental values on which our union is based. Acting otherwise, arguing that an emergency situation commands a limitation of people's fundamental rights, would be a dangerous mistake and a real threat to the future of our union.