European Internal Security Conference

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European Internal Security Conference, 23-25 April 2012

By Christian Kaunert, Adrienne Heritier, Sarah Leonard, Helena Carrapico, Marat Markert, and Tina Freyburg

From 23 to 25 April this year, the Max Weber Programme (in collaboration with RSCAS) organized and hosted the European Internal Security Conference. This three day event, co-sponsored by the European Commission’s Life Long Learning programme, brought together more than 100 participants from Europe and the US, and was the biggest academic conference on this issue over the last three years. The conference was a follow-up to last year’s initiative by the RSCAS and the SPS Department, expanding the thematic and organizational scope. During three days of presentations and roundtables, junior and senior academics, practitioners (DG Home, European Parliament, Council and Europol), as well as representatives of civil society (Statewatch) in the field of internal security, had the opportunity to debate past and current evolutions of EU policies in the area of criminal law and police cooperation, migration, border policies, and EU agencies in this field.

As an official term, “European Internal Security” is a newcomer at the EU level. Yet, in substance this policy field comprises a variety of existing policies and cooperation among Member States, notably Criminal Justice and Police Cooperation, Border Policies, Immigration, as well as newly emerging issues such as Cyber-security and the “External Dimension of Justice and Home Affairs”.

Given this increasingly complex policy field and the immense variety of actors involved in it, the main goal for such an extensive gathering of experts was to provide different perspectives on how we can understand the development of the emerging EU Internal Security policies and actors in this field. The conference provided an overview of how the field of Justice and Home Affairs in general, and internal security policies in particular, have been evolving incrementally from pure intergovernmental coordination to a gradual pooling of national sovereignty at the EU level over the last two decades. Not all the steps in this slow-moving EU integration process have been based on the positive deliberate action of Member States. “Windows of opportunity”, “strategic interactions”, “judicial politics”, as well as a focus on managing policy-output through “multi-annual policy programmes”, have been the main driving forces behind institutionalization in this policy field.  Yet despite the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty that seems to institutionalize all these developments and finally abolish the “Pillar Structure”, we see today intergovernmental elements persist both in Treaties and in day-to-day policymaking.

Throughout the presentations of academics it seemed that “securitization” approaches still figured prominently in this field, either describing the expanding scope of what is labelled an “internal security” issue at the EU level, or being tested against the backdrop of agency evolution and parliamentary debates. Surprisingly, while academics and civil society are quick in attributing the “securitization” concept to emerging EU policies, a deductive testing of propositions derived from “securitization” does not always lend support to this perspective.

Moreover, from legal perspectives many concepts governing the field (what is meant by “security” and “risk”?) remain undefined and blurry, allowing for executive discretion but also hindering the establishment of common rules at the EU level. Under such circumstances the decision-making arena can become appealing for individual Member States policy interests, but ineffective regarding overall policy output. It was also shown that challenges arise at the inter-institutional decision-making level, where Member States, Commission, the European Parliament try to solidify and expand their competencies. From the side of senior scholars, civil society and practitioners a number of practical issues were addressed, such as pro and contra arguments to greater access to documents and transparency in this policy area, or that true inter-disciplinary research is needed, in particular on issues that concern not only questions of law and criminalization, but also technology (such as Internet and Telecommunication).

A short-term goal is to make the contributions to this conference available for the wider academic community and civil society, while mid- and long-term objectives should be to contribute to institutionalize such fruitful academic-practitioners’ dialogues at the EUI and provide critical, but fruitful, input to policy developments.