Safety for citizens: a look at European crisis management

Safety for citizens: a look at European crisis management

Security and European crisis management will be very high on the agenda of the electoral campaign next year and GEQ speaks to Nicoletta Pirozzi as she outlines the main challenges Europe faces.

Security procedures are evolving and becoming tighter and sharper following a number of incidents that have sparked concern. The way that European crisis management is developed in the next year will have a major effect ahead of the upcoming elections. EU citizens want to feel protected and this all comes down to a number of crucial elements: defence, security and crisis management.

Government Europa Quarterly speaks to Nicoletta Pirozzi from the Institute of International Affairs in Italy about crisis management and the major challenges that Europe are likely to be faced with in the future.

Has the increase in EU terror attacks been a major catalyst in the ever growing importance of a more concrete European crisis management system?

Crisis management has always been a core business for the EU and European crisis management itself has evolved and changed a lot in the last few years. The new security challenges are impacting heavily on both the civilian and military sectors of European crisis management. Since the first major terrorist attacks in European territory began in the 2000s, international terrorism has been at the top of the EU’s agenda. It was then that the EU realised there was a need to rethink and adapt all of the instruments for crisis management in Brussels and within Member States.

This is having a great impact on how the civilian side of crisis management is being conceived. As a reaction to the latest terrorist attacks, many EU Member States have reinforced internal crisis management instruments and capabilities, from police to intelligence. At the same time, it has become clear that without a co-ordinated policy at EU-level and with no effective instruments, both internally and externally, the EU will struggle to face this emerging security threat. More effective links amongst the national polices and sharing more intelligence information between Member States is essential to co-ordinate and improve internal instruments and capabilities. As for external aspects, ensuring border security through effective collective management at an EU level is of the outmost importance. Europe also needs to address the issue in its relationships with other countries that are most exposed to terrorism and organised crime.

How has European crisis management evolved and changed in the past few years?

There are two main developments in the European crisis management field, one in the military side and one in the civilian field. Both changes are linked to the evolving security context both in Europe and at the international level. However, they are also connected to the evolution at the institutional level within the European Union. The EU Global Strategy was released in 2016, and its implementation phase has impacted both the military and the civilian fields of crisis management.

On the military side, the recent developments in the framework of the Permanent Structured Co-operation (PeSCo) have fostered a new approach based upon co-operation amongst the Member States being more willing and able to integrate within the EU in this sector. PeSCo was launched in December 2017 and is now in the implementation phase with the participation of 25 Member States. It has been accompanied by the creation of the Commission-founded European Defence Fund and the establishment of an embryonic headquarters in Brussels for non-executive military missions.

In the civilian field, the adoption of a Civilian Compact should be implemented by the end of this year. This is intended to be a new pact among the EU Member States to serve more flexible and effective civilian crisis management. When looking at the projects and prospects of the Civilian Compact, it becomes clear that the issue is to manage and to tackle the emerging security threats and challenges for the EU, including maritime security, illicit trafficking, illegal migration, organised crimes and terrorism.

In a union as big and industrialised as Europe’s, why are we considering the current migrant situation as a crisis? Is the EU managing and tackling the issues related to migration effectively?

The European Union has had to face an increase in the number of people migrating from abroad, particularly via the Central Mediterranean route in connection with the Libyan crisis and the end of the Gaddafi Regime and via the Eastern Mediterranean route in connection with the conflicts in the Middle East and Syria. This has been a real problem to face until the numbers reached their peak in 2015-2016. However, the numbers have decreased in the last few years, partly due to a contested agreement between EU Member States and Turkey, and other bilateral agreements, particularly between Italy and Libya in 2016.

It is really difficult to talk about a crisis now, as looking at the figures they are not unmanageable. The problem is more connected to the current political environment in the EU and the emergence of new extremist and xenophobic political forces in many European countries. The migration issue can be seen as a very effective and strong political instrument to carry out political campaigns. European citizens have started to perceive migration as a possible source of insecurity, and the mix between migration and terrorism issues has led to the creation of a migration emergency and the label of ‘migration crisis’.

The way the EU is managing the migration agenda cannot really be judged as effective, as there are many problems related to the internal and external aspects of migration management. There has been some improvement on the external aspects of migration, for example with the development of the FRONTEX agency and the creation of the European Border and Coast Guard which have reinforced the means of co-operation for border management in Europe. This has been accompanied by the EU missions directed at saving lives and disrupting the business model of traffickers in the Mediterranean Sea. Internally, the problems have not yet been mitigated and there is still a contested asylum and migration policy at the EU level – especially in terms of allocation of migrant quotas among the different Member States that has not been implemented in an effective way. The Member States have not kept up with their commitments, and this has resulted in an unequal burden sharing, which is exacerbated by the new political situation in many of the EU countries.

What are the most pressing issues that Europe needs to overcome in crisis management?

The EU has to demonstrate to its citizens that it can protect them: the time has come to realise the announcements made at the political level. The most crucial challenge is to prove that Europe can provide security for its citizens without denying the fundamental values on which the EU has been built. The EU has adopted a very ambitious concept of integrated approach to conflict and crises. On the basis of this approach, the EU should be able to mobilise all of its resources from diplomacy, to military force, to civilian means and put forward an alternative model of security. If the EU is unable to provide sufficient incentives to Member States to respect the commitments made at EU level, the whole process will be a huge failure.

2019 will be a crucial year for the EU, due to the next European Parliament elections. Security and European crisis management will be very high on the agenda of the electoral campaign, being among the main issues that European citizens expect to be executed to a high standard.

Nicoletta Pirozzi, PhD

Head of EU politics and institutions

Institutional Relations Manager

Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

Tweet @nicolepirozzi


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