Brussels, 20 June 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to be with you here today, to open this conference on European border management, defence, security, and migration.
We all know that these topics are at the very top not only of the European, but also of the global policy agenda.
Two issues in particular, fighting terrorism and better managing migration are the two main concerns of European citizens today.
These are issues that touch the lives of our citizens on a daily basis.
The recent events in London show not only how closely some of these issues affect us, but also how divisive they are.
The horrendous attack in Borough market and London Bridge, and the attack this week near the Mosque at Finsbury Park are equally horrifying.
Terrorism has no face, no skin colour, no religion. Any form of terrorism and violence is intolerable.
Europe has had to deal with two parallel and simultaneous crises on migration and security.
While not connected, both issues are today putting in question the very fundaments and cohesion of our European Union: our unity.
However, if anything has become clear over the past two years, it is that we can only manage these issues together.
With TRUST and UNITY.
Instead, we see a rise in extremist voices, in nationalism and populism.
Voices that are calling to close our borders, to build fences, to push people out.
But this is not what our citizens want.
Yes our citizens want to feel safe and secure – but not at the expense of their mobility.
Last week we celebrated 32 years of Schengen.
32 years of internal movement within the Schengen area, without controls.
And yet this quintessential European achievement is at stake today.
I want to be very frank with you: the end of Schengen will be the end of Europe.
As we celebrated 60 years since the Treaty of Rome, we have to commemorate our achievements, and remind ourselves not to take them for granted.
It is true that circumstances have changed – but so has our response.
We have to evolve and build on our achievements, not overthrow them.
To continue with the example of Schengen: we have strengthened Schengen, but we have kept its essence, investing all our efforts to return to a normal functioning again as soon as possible.
We have created a European Border and Coast Guard, by expanding and strengthening what many of you know as Frontex.
Now we have more than 1600 border staff deployed in Greece, Italy but also Bulgaria helping these countries to better protect their borders.
At the same time, we have introduced systematic checks at the external borders for anyone crossing – including EU citizens.
We have proposed an Entry-Exit System to reinforce border check procedures for non-EU nationals travelling to the EU.
We have also proposed a European Travel Information and Authorisation System that will allow us to carry out additional security and irregular migration checks for non-EU, visa-free travellers prior to their travel to the EU.
But ladies and gentlemen, let me be very clear: we are not building Fortress Europe.
We want Europe to be safe – but we also want Europe to remain open.
Europe was built on values of openness, tolerance, solidarity and responsibility-sharing.
These fundaments should not change.
Today is World Refugee Day. More than 65 million people are displaced right now globally.
To those who question or criticize our approach I wish to say that this is not about open borders.
This is about respecting our international obligation to offer protection to those in need.
But for this we need a European and global approach.
If we want to be able to continue to offer real, effective and quick protection to those who need it, we have to stem the irregular, uncontrollable flows.
And this is what all our efforts under the European Agenda on Migration have been about:
- reforming our asylum system and relocating only those who are really in need of protection
- investing in resettlement so that identified and screened candidates come legally and safely
- improving returns for those who have no right to stay here
- reinforcing our partnership with key partners countries such as Turkey, but also the Western Balkans, and also countries in North and Sub-Saharan Africa to fight smuggling and irregular migration routes, and to improve returns.
- building hotspots to register, screen and fingerprint every single person arriving at our external borders and sharing this information in our databases with all Member States in case of security alerts.
If we want to maintain our openness, we need to know who is crossing our borders – for whichever reason.
This information, and the way we share it between us, is key.
That is why for the past year, we have given top priority to making sure our information systems for borders, security and migration talk to each other.
This is critical to ensure that this information is not lost. So that border guards, police, customs officials can make the right call at the right time, with the necessary information at their fingertips.
Again, this is first of all about trust.
Sharing information with our partners could potentially stop a terrorist attack across the border.
Only if we feed this information through our information systems, will other Member States be able to take action on alerts that may come up.
Next week we will propose to reinforce our agency in charge of information-sharing, eu-Lisa.
With more resources, and a clear mandate to work on the interoperability of all our information systems.
We need to step up cooperation on all fronts, to break up the old silo mentalities, and to arrive at common solutions, to common problems that affect all of us.
PNR is a good example. This is the kind of information sharing on suspects of serious crime or terrorism that can prevent threats from materialising.
And this is the kind of information we can share with our international partners such as the United States to maximise the reach of security measures globally.
The Schengen Information System is another case in point. It is our most successful information system, consulted millions of times per year.
But this System will only be as valuable as the information we put into it.
And here again, we go back to trust.
The past two years, the experiences Europe has had with terrorism have been an eye opener.
The threat affects all of us equally.
We all need to realise that it does not stop at our borders.
Fragmentation makes us all vulnerable.
And this is exactly the mentality change we have been trying to achieve, on the way to a genuine and effective Security Union.
In good time, the building blocks of our Security Union should be the same for a Defence Union. External and internal threats are linked and should be dealt with collectively.
We need to give our Member States the tools, the structures and the resources to fight these threats better, together.
This does not of course change the fact that Member States remain responsible for their national security.
But which national security can we talk about, when terrorists cross our national borders to plan, coordinate and execute their crimes?
When the threat is transnational, our response can only be collective.
Terrorism transcends our notion of the nation state.
We need to respond in the same way.
This is the logic of putting Europol at the very centre of our collective operations.
An agency reinforced in resources and in expertise, to provide all the support Member States need to address the threats.
With its own Counter-Terrorism Centre, Europol now guarantees 24/7 operational support to our Member States.
Of course this is a fight that we cannot only fight on the ground, or at our borders.
As Daesh loses territory, our fight against terrorism increasingly takes place on the internet.
The internet is an echo chamber, both for propaganda and for deadly skills.
It is a catalyst for:
• amplifying the terrorist message for recruitment,
• disseminating knowledge, and
• providing a platform for secure communications.
It is urgent and indispensable that we achieve a step-change in how we fight terrorism online.
Europol again plays a crucial part in the partnership we set up with the internet industry through the EU Internet Forum, to take terrorist content off the internet.
We are already removing a lot of terrorist content.
The internet companies created a so-called database of hashes, to ensure that terrorist material removed from one site will not be re-uploaded elsewhere.
Now is time to take this work one step further.
Next week, the Forum will meet again, to redouble our efforts. We want to move towards more automation in fighting terrorism online, bringing more companies to our partnership, and cooperating better with law enforcement authorities.
The problem of course does not end with the internet.
Recent attacks are showing both the alarming speed and the scale at which some citizens are becoming radicalised.
We clearly face a serious challenge which requires immediate and concerted action.
Threats do not only materialise from the outside.
And these threats from the inside are the most frequent, serious and difficult to stop.
Our Radicalisation Awareness Network has served us well since 2015.
It's now time to rethink how we can enhance its impact on the ground.
The results it can bring in stopping our own citizens from taking up arms against us.
Just yesterday, the Radicalisation Awareness Network produced guidance to help our Member States tackle the challenge of returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters.
This is another example of how working together and sharing information can help us address this threat together.
The lesson of the past two years for all of us has been that it's not just about core security measures.
It's also not just about border or migration management.
It's all of our actions taken together.
Because if we do it together, the impact is greater.
It's about how we manage to build trust.
Ultimately, this is about the cohesion of our Union.
We should never forget or take for granted the raison d'etre of this Union.
60 years of peace, stability and prosperity.
This is what is really at stake.
And this is what extremists today are targeting, aiming to divide us.
The challenges of security and migration will not go away anytime soon.
They are already shaping and will continue to shape the future of Europe.
No country can or should deal with these challenges alone.
History will judge our generation by the way we respond.
Our response should be:
- responsibility, and
These are the pillars of our strategy, for the present and for the future.