Fabian Demicoli

Lesson 8: A Europe of freedom, security and justice


European citizens are entitled to live in freedom,
without fear of persecution or violence, anywhere in the European Union. Yet
international crime and terrorism are among the main concerns of Europeans
today.

Clearly, freedom of movement must mean giving everyone,
everywhere in the EU, the same protection and the same access to justice. So,
through successive amendments to the Treaties, the European Union is gradually
being made into a single ‘area of freedom, security and justice'.

 

Moving freely within the EU and protecting
its external borders

The free movement of people within the EU raises
security issues for the member states, since they no longer control internal EU
borders. To compensate for this, extra security measures have to be put in
place at the EU's external borders. Moreover, since criminals can also exploit
freedom of movement within the EU, national police forces and judicial
authorities have to work together to combat cross-border crime.

One of the most important moves to make life easier for
travellers in the European Union took place in 1985, when an agreement was
signed in a small Luxembourg border town called Schengen. They agreed to
abolish all checks on people, regardless of nationality, at their shared
borders, to harmonise controls at their borders with non-EU countries and to
introduce a common policy on visas. They thus formed an area without internal
frontiers known as the Schengen area. In 2010, the Schengen rules are fully
implemented by all EU countries except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and
the United Kingdom. Three non-EU countries – Iceland, Norway and Switzerland –
are also in the Schengen area.

Tightening up checks at the EU's external borders became
a priority when the EU expanded in 2004 and 2007. An EU agency known as Frontex,
based in Warsaw, is responsible for managing EU cooperation on external border
security. The member states can lend it boats, helicopters and planes for
carrying out joint patrols – for example in sensitive areas of the
Mediterranean.

 

Asylum and immigration policy

Europe is proud of its humanitarian tradition of
welcoming foreigners and offering asylum to refugees fleeing danger and
persecution. Today, however, EU governments face the pressing question of how
to deal with rising numbers of immigrants, both legal and illegal, in an area
without internal frontiers.

In recent years, large numbers of illegal immigrants
have been arriving on Europe's shores, and one of the EU's top priorities is to
deal with this problem. Member governments are working together to tackle
people smuggling and to agree common arrangements for repatriating illegal
immigrants. At the same time, legal immigration is being better coordinated
under EU rules on family reunification, on the status of long-term residents
and on admitting non-EU nationals who wish to come to Europe to study or to
undertake research.

 

 

 

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