Written by Wouter van Ballegooij and Gaby Umbach,
A well-attended EP-European University Institute Policy Roundtable took place on 7 November 2017 to consider the ‘Area of freedom, security and justice: untapped potential’. The event was organised to reflect on the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) request to the EPRS European Added Value Unit to produce a Cost of Non-Europe Report on the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ). This report will map the current gaps and barriers and estimate their impacts on the establishment of this area. The report will measure both economic impacts and those on individuals in terms of protecting their fundamental rights and freedoms. Finally, it will provide options for action at EU level to address the identified gaps and barriers together with an estimation of their potential costs and benefits.
Following welcome and introductory remarks from Anthony Teasdale, Director-General for Parliamentary Research Services, Wouter Van Ballegooij reviewed the untapped potential of the AFSJ in light of challenges to:
- upholding democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights in the Member States;
- ensuring a high level of security in the fight against corruption, organised crime, and terrorism;
- guaranteeing the right to asylum, protecting external borders; and
- developing a common migration policy.
The intermediate results of the research conducted by EPRS show that the gaps and barriers in EU cooperation and action in the various areas covered by the AFSJ are interlinked. Free movement within the Schengen area was undermined by the EU’s inability to respond properly to the refugee crisis. Effectively fighting corruption is illusory in a state in which the rule of law is not respected. Similarly, lack of action against discrimination and racism, and maltreatment in prison, undermine efforts in the fight against crime and terrorism. VanBallegooij stressed that more EU action and cooperation to complete the AFSJ is essential to allow individuals to fully enjoy their fundamental rights and improve their material and immaterial well-being, thereby enhancing their trust in the EU based on its ability to deliver concrete benefits in their daily lives. Further cooperation and action will also make EU societies more secure, free, and prosperous through the pooling of resources and boosting of economic growth.
A roundtable discussion between EUI experts followed, moderated by Gaby Umbach. Joining via video-conference from Florence, Professor Deirdre Curtin pointed to the challenges of differentiation for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and of accommodating the various ways in which EU Member States and third countries participate in Justice and Home Affairs cooperation. Underlining the relevance of data protection safeguards and data sharing standards for those whose data are being stored and exchanged through EU databases, Curtin highlighted the need for greater reflection on supranational and horizontal control and the role of agencies in this regard. Curtin particularly criticised the ‘function creep’ in the area of data collection and exchange. Professor Sergio Carrera, mentioning some of the deficiencies of the Common European Asylum System and recent policy developments, such as the EU-Turkey statement aimed at halting the influx of migrants, stressed the need for Member States to respect international and EU fundamental rights standards. Moreover, Carrera pointed to the additional costs of non-Europe resulting from non-compliance with and non-implementation of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice acquis. During the Q&A session, Emilio De Capitani, former head of the LIBE secretariat, called for the European Parliament to take the lead in setting the agenda for future development of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, to co-shape the areas’ strategic orientation and to better interconnect policies. Further questions from the audience showed the need to engage with citizens on the future development of an area that directly and profoundly touches their freedoms and collective security.
In his concluding remarks, Wolfgang Hiller, Director of Impact Assessment and European Added Value at EPRS pointed to some of the challenges in assessing the impacts in an area covering such heterogeneous and sensitive policies, for which an economic assessment is often very difficult or less relevant. In general, Justice and Home Affairs policies are among the worst performers in terms of better regulation. Evidence based policies should however also be developed here, including through this Cost of Non-Europe report.