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IEP Lunch Debate with Peter ALTMAIER: “The Internal Security of the EU: Current Developments and Perspectives”

left to right: Dr. Barbara Lippert, Dr. Mathias Jopp (both IEP), Peter Altmaier, MdB

The European Union today can only reduce the “dissat­is­faction of citizens toward Europe” through a demon­stration of its capacity to act. State Secretary Altmaier, from 2002 to 2003 a deputy member at the EU consti­tu­tional convention and previ­ously at the EU funda­mental rights convention, presented this thesis at the beginning of his talk for this IEP Lunch Debate. Peter Altmaier, MdB, Parlia­mentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, stated that, for too long, the debate has primarily been about insti­tu­tional questions, when in fact the very dynamic area of justice and home affairs policy offers an ideal field in which to corre­spond to citizens’ wishes for security and freedom through noticeable progress. There is thus a good chance to demon­strate the “advan­tages of European cooper­ation” with concrete projects.

In the 1970s there was still no direct cooper­ation between German and French police or border author­ities. Today the member states can report great successes in the improvement of internal security through direct, cross-border cooper­ation, especially since the European summit of Tampere in 1999. As an example, Altmaier identified the upcoming football World Cup in Germany. For the first time, police officers from almost all member states will serve at stadiums and other events in their respective national uniforms alongside German units. Moreover, one of the greatest accom­plish­ments remains the European Arrest Warrant, whose ratifi­cation, however, is regret­tably not yet complete in Germany due to a decision of the Federal Consti­tu­tional Court.

The EU member states are currently confronted with three cross-border threats: inter­na­tional terrorism, cross-border crime (especially drug trafficking) and illegal immigration. Altmaier empha­sised that European citizens expect effective protection from the EU in all of these problem areas. The EU thus finds itself with the difficult task of dealing with the requirement for internal security in the member states without conveying the impression of a “fortress Europe” by strength­ening the Schengen area. For this reason, the goal of an effective neigh­bourhood policy is closely connected with the expansion of the European area of freedom, security and justice.

Altmaier showed himself rather noncom­mittal on additional legislative proposals in the area of justice and home affairs. The quick ratifi­cation and practical imple­men­tation of the already agreed legal arrange­ments should come to the fore. In this context, he referred to the concrete form of the Treaty of Prüm, signed in May 2005, on the deepening of cross-border cooper­ation for the fight against inter­na­tional terrorism, crime and illegal immigration, which is supposed to be adopted into community law as soon as possible. It is a great success that agree­ments for simpli­fying the depor­tation of illegal immigrants have meanwhile become no longer bilateral, but are instead negotiated by the European Commission directly with third countries.

The expansion of the Schengen area to the new member states is now necessary, says Altmaier. There must be country-specific evalu­a­tions, which would most probably lead to a phased accession to the Schengen Agreement. Altmaier welcomed possi­bil­ities for “cooper­ation renforcée“ in the area of justice and home affairs between those states that actually demon­strate a common interest on certain projects and want to proceed. This need not and should not be limited to the large G‑6, but the group should remain open for all that want to join and can join.

To conclude, Altmaier explained that the Interior Ministry is currently working inten­sively on its program for the German Council Presi­dency in the first semester of 2007. Given the elections in France and the Nether­lands in 2007, one should expect only a “Road Map” for future progress on the European Consti­tu­tional Treaty and not a complete resolution to the crisis. Finally, the question of internal security in the “modern” and not just the repressive sense will definitely be a priority of the German Presidency.

By: Gesa‑S. Kuhle