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Security and migration proposals dominate Juncker`s `State of the Union` announcements (vom 16.09.2018),
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[16. Sep 2018]

Security and migration proposals dominate Juncker`s `State of the Union` announcements

Statewatch documentation: A reinforced Frontex, a new European Asylum Agency, more measures against online terrorist content, a strengthened European Public Prosecutor's Office, lowering the standards in the Returns Directive and changes to decision-making in foreign policy were just some of the security and migration-related proposals announced in the 'State of the Union' speech given by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, on 12 September 2018.

A number of the proposals have already drawn criticism. Professor Steve Peers, an expert in EU justice and home affairs (JHA) law, :: has noted that the proposal on returns is "not evidence-based policy making," as "there is no proper impact assessment" to substantiate the necessity of the reforms, which will lead to more people being detained in the hope of removing them from the EU.

Similarly, the civil society organisations EDRi and Access Now :: have condemned the proposed Regulation on deleting online terrorist content as an "election tactic" in view of the upcoming European Parliament elections in May 2019, saying that it "fails to provide any meaningful evidence on how this regulation will prevent the dissemination of alleged terrorist content online while it puts fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and privacy at risk."

However, there is clearly significant political intent behind the proposals - according to Juncker, the migration proposals will provide "lasting solidarity" between EU Member States "today and forever more." Following up on Juncker's announcements with a speech on 13 September, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Migration, claimed that the new proposals are "the final pieces of the migration puzzle."

The Commission is also proposing:

Juncker's full speech can be read here :: State of the Union 2018: The hour of European sovereignty (pdf)

A brief outline of all the proposals on security and migration is provided below.


Proposals on migration


The Commission has provided its own summary of the migration-related proposals in a press release: :: Commission proposes last elements needed for compromise on migration and border reform (pdf), while the speech given by Avramopoulos can be read here :: Remarks of Commissioner Avramopoulos on new measures for stronger EU borders and solidarity on migration (pdf)

Frontex

A Regulation has been proposed that would massively reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard (better-known as Frontex).

The Commission has for some time been promoting the idea of giving the agency a "standing corps" of 10,000 border guards by 2027 - but the new proposal brings that date forward to 2020.

It would also give the agency's officers executive powers, provide more funding for Frontex in general, along with more powers to acquire and operate its own equipment (for example, boats and helicopters), and give new possibilities to identify irregular migrants, prepare return decisions and to launch operations outside the EU, amongst other things.

For more detail, see (pdfs):


European asylum agency

The new proposal for a European Union Agency for Asylum would give the agency new tasks, beyond those already proposed in measures announced in 2016 (see below). Under the new proposals, the agency would be able to give Member States' authorities "greater technical and operational assistance" and would be able to undertake all administrative procedures in requests for international protection.

A proposal to transform the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into a European Union Agency for Asylum was put forward by the Commission in May 2016, and an agreement was reached on the text by the Parliament and Council in June 2017.

Nevertheless, the Commission considers it necessary to put forward further proposals regarding the asylum agency, and its new amended proposal "should not in any further way delay the adoption of the Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum," says the explanatory memorandum accompanying the new text.

See (pdfs):
Return Directive

The issue of returns has become something of an obsession for EU and Member State politicians and planners in recent years, and the new proposals to amend the 2008 Returns Directive represent the culmination of recent attempts to lower standards by more informal means. For example, last year the Commission published an Action Plan on a more effective returns policy and a Recommendation on making returns more effective, both of which were well-received by the Member States.

According to the Commission's press release, the new Directive "will contribute to speeding up return procedures, better prevent absconding and irregular secondary movements and increase effective returns in full respect of fundamental rights."

This final point is doubtful. As Steve Peers concludes in :: his analysis: Documentation (pdfs):
Legal migration

The Commission has also published a Communication on legal migration :: Enhancing legal pathways to Europe: an indispensable part of a balanced and comprehensive migration policy (COM(2018) 635 final), which notes that "common efforts tackling irregular migration flows have led to solid progress. The same political determination is also needed when it comes to developing legal pathways to Europe, which requires a stepping up of efforts."


Proposals on Common Foreign and Security Policy


One of the Commission's proposals concerns the way decisions are made by the Member States on the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Currently, Member States must agree unanimously on any decision - but the Commission wants to change this and introduce Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), by which a majority is 55% of Member States that represent at least 65% of the EU population

The changes would be made in three particular areas: EU positions on human rights in multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations; the adoption and amendment of EU sanctions regimes; and on civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions.

On human rights positions, the Commission's Communication states that the changes "will enable more efficient and timely EU action." Regarding sanctions, the changes would increase "the ability of the EU to act decisively in its geopolitical interest." On civilian CSDP missions, the Communication notes that QMV would make it possible for the EU "to deploy its toolbox quickly to respond and engage in crisis or post-crisis environments... As the EU seeks to export stability to its neighbourhood, the number of civilian missions is likely to increase."

The press release argues that "the prospect of a vote by qualified majority is a powerful catalyst to engage Member States in building effective consensus and achieving unity." It may also, of course, make it easier for some Member States to assert their interests over others.

Documentation (pdfs)



Proposals on security


European Public Prosecutor's Office

The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) was agreed upon in November 2017 and so far 20 EU Member States have signed up to participate. It is expected to start operations from sometime in 2020 or 2021 and currently has a mandate "for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment the perpetrators of, and accomplices to, criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the Union" (see Article 4 of the :: Regulation).

The Commission is now proposing to extend that mandate by giving the EPPO the powers for "investigating, prosecuting and... bringing to judgement cross-border terrorist crimes." This would require amending the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), for which purpose the Commission has published a Draft Council Decision. The Coommunication argues that:


Documentation (pdfs)
Online terrorist content

Another measure is a proposal for a Regulation that contains "new rules to get terrorist content off the web within one hour," according to the Commission's press release.

:: EDRi and Access Now summarise the main points of the proposed Regulation as follows: The two organisations have criticised the proposals, noting that the EU already has "a pile of existing tools and expired implementation deadlines" that the Member States have failed to respect, yet the Commission has nevertheless "proposed yet more ill-defined measures."

Documentation (pdfs)
Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing measures

A proposal on further anti-money laundering measures has also been published. The Commission states in its Communication that:
Documentation (pdfs)
Measures on elections

Two of the measures published by the Commission relate to elections, and in particular elections to the European Parliament, the next round of which will take place in May 2019.

The first is guidance on how the new EU data protection rules should be applied in the context of elections, whether at national or European level, given the increasing use of targeted advertising and campaigning based on the processing of personal data. The Commission notes: "The Cambridge Analytica revelations demonstrate the risk modern technologies can pose to the electoral process."

The second is:
Wrapped up in this are the guidance on data protection noted above, as well as a forthcoming Code of Practice on transparency and restrictions in online targeted advertising, methods for exchange of "best practice" on organising elections, the establishment of a European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre and an associated Network of National Coordination Centres and a proposal to introduce "financial penalties of 5% of the annual budget of the European party or political foundation concerned if they infringe the data protection rules in an attempt to influence the outcome of elections to the European Parliament."

Documentation (pdfs)

Further reading


:: EU to shore up borders, returns and migrant detentions (EUobserver, link)
:: The core of Juncker’s State of the Union speech: A federal border police (EurActiv, link)

Source :: statewatch.org, 14. Sep 2018