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Budget proposals foresee big boost for spending on security, migration and border control
10.5.18
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The European Commission has published proposals for the EU's budget for 2021-27, with significant increases foreseen in spending on internal security - with a proposal for a 180% boost compared to the 2014-20 period - and on migration and border management, with a 280% increase.

Internal security comes under the double heading of "security and defence", within which EU military spending would increase massively: by 220%, according to the proposals published last week by the Commission.

The security research programme will also continue in the 2021-27 period as part of the Horizon Europe research programme, with a foreseen total budget of almost €100 billion - a long way short of the €120 billion called for by the Parliament, NGOs and many others.

A Rights, Values and Justice programme, designed to support rights, equality and the development of an EU area of justice, has a foreseen budget of almost €950 million.

The proposals have come in for criticism from numerous quarters, such as Member States (The Independent, link) who face increases in contributions but reductions in payouts (Politico, link), as well as advocacy organisations (ONE, link) who have highlighted that "gender equality is not addressed as a key political priority" and that the "Communication itself makes no reference to gender equality".

The Commission has also put forth the idea that where there are deficiencies in the rule of law in a Member State, "it must be possible to draw consequences for EU funding" - something that has provoked an unfavourable response (Budapest Business Journal, link) from Hungarian government ministers.

As has been promised in previous announcements from the Commission, security is a major priority in the new proposals.

Documentation

Further documentation is available: Legal texts and factsheets on the EU budget for the future (European Commission, link)

Need for speed

Currently the Commission has published one formal proposal for a Council Regulation which will establish the 2021-27 budget - known formally as the "multiannual financial framework".

Proposals for the rules regarding each specific budget will follow in the coming weeks, and the Commission considers that time is of the essence - according to its press release:

"Negotiations on the current long-term EU budget took too long. As a result, key financial programmes were delayed and projects with real potential to spur the economic recovery postponed.

Negotiations should therefore be given the utmost priority, and agreement should be reached before the European Parliament elections and the summit in Sibiu on 9 May 2019. The Commission will do everything in its power to allow for a swift agreement."

This means a timeline of less than a year, which would suggest that careful deliberation and democratic procedure will not be at the forefront of proceedings.

Internal security

A new Internal Security Fund (ISF) is proposed for the 2021-27 period with a budget of €2.5 billion, which would carry on where the existing 'Internal Security Fund - Police' leaves off. The 2014-20 budget for the ISF-Police is just over €1 billion, making it rather unclear how the proposed figure represents a 180% increase.

Nevertheless, as the Commission notes: "Security will remain a defining issue for the EU for years to come and Europe’s citizens expect their Union and national governments to deliver security in a fast-changing and uncertain world."

The objectives for the proposed new fund are to "increase the exchange of information" and "intensify cross-border joint operations between law enforcement and other competent authorities within the EU, including with security relevant Union agencies and other Union bodies, third countries and international organisations."

The money will also go towards "collective responses to security threats by increasing capabilities and enhancing EU preparedness and resilience, including by increasing cooperation among public authorities, civil actors and private partners."

The EU's Civil Protection Mechanism and programmes for nuclear decommissioning in various Member States also come under the 'internal security' heading.

For a critical examination of EU security spending, see: Market forces: the development of the EU security-industrial complex

Migration, asylum, border control

Currently the EU has two chief funds geared towards asylum, migration and border control: the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund - Borders (ISF-Borders), both running between 2014 and 2020.

The Commission's proposals foresee a new Asylum and Migration Fund, with a budget of €10.4 billion; and an Integrated Border Management Fund, with a budget of €9.3 billion.

The Asylum and Migration Fund would:

  • develop the Common European Asylum System (CEAS);
  • enhance "effective and fair return policies" and "contribute to combatting irregular migration";
  • aim at "enhancing solidarity and responsibility-sharing between Member States";
  • support "legal migration into Europe and [contribute]... to the effective integration of third country nationals";
  • support "the external dimension of the EU migration and asylum policy in full coherence and synergies with the EU's external action."

On this last point, the proposal notes that "synergies will be established" with other programmes including the foreseen Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument - for which the Commission states:

"Migration is a priority which will be identified and addressed across the instrument and in the different pillars, including by drawing on unallocated funds." (emphasis added)

Analysis of an earlier leaked version of the proposals (ECDPM, link) raised questions about the potential reform of the EU's development funds, noting that while simplifying the relevant budgets would be welcome, there was a clear possibility for development goals to be subverted, including by the inclusion of migration as a political priority:

"We live in a world where political pressure is increasingly pushing EU leaders to seek ‘quick results’. This is why many worry that pursuing long-term global and European values, will increasingly lose out to short-term measures, whose effectiveness in achieving results is dubious. Hence, the interest in the detail."

This is of course already happening, as demonstrated by a report from last year on the diversion of development aid to migraton control objectives. More recently, in Italy the legal organisation ASGI has been given permission to file a case against against the diversion of funds for development cooperation (some €2.5 million from the Trust Fund for Africa) to strengthen Libyan coast guard and border control capabilities.

The proposed Integrated Border Management Fund, meanwhile, will continue ongoing efforts to technologically fortify the EU's borders through two sub-funds, one concerning border management and visas and the other customs control equipment.

According to the Commission, the former will:

  • promote the uniform implementation, further development and modernisation of the common policy on short-stay visas, including the digitisation of visa processing;
  • develop different forms of consular cooperation;
  • enhance border control by reinforcing the Member States’ capacities, including by facilitating legitimate border crossings and, where appropriate, preventing and detecting terrorism and cross-border crime, such as migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and supporting the Member States facing existing or potentially disproportionately migratory pressure at the EU external borders;
  • support the development, operation and maintenance of information systems, including interoperability;
  • enhance inter-agency cooperation at national level among national authorities in Member States, responsible for border control or for other tasks carried out at the border;
  • carry out risk analyses and identifying threats that may affect the functioning or the security of the external borders;
  • ensure the uniform application of the Schengen acquis on external borders;
  • fund the further development of the European Border and Coast Guard and contributing to the exchange or secondment of border guards and other relevant experts between Member States or between a Member State and a third country.

As part of these changes, the Commission foresees the need for:

"a strong and fully operational European Border and Coast Guard (FRONTEX) at the core of a fully integrated EU border management system. The Commission proposes to create a standing corps of around 10,000 border guards by the end of the financial period. It will also provide financial support and training for the increase of the national border guard component in Member States. This will also allow for the stepping up of operational capacity, the reinforcement of existing tools and the development of EU wide information systems for borders, migration management and security." (emphasis added)

See: European Commission wants 10,000 border guards (EUobserver, link)

For a critical analysis of EU spending on border control, see: Border Wars: The arms dealers profiting from Europe's refugee tragedy (TNI, link)

And on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF): Follow the money: assessing the use of EU AMIF funding at the national level (ECRE, link to pdf)

Security research

The exact amount for security research - which for 2014-20 has a budget of €1.7 billion - will not be known until formal proposals are published by the Commission.

However, a recently leaked draft annex on the research programme foresees a theme entitled 'Resilience and Security' which appears to combine the two current themes of 'Europe in a changing world' (dominated by social science research) and 'Secure societies' (geared towards technology development and subject to heavy influence by transnational corporations and major research institutes).

See: Annex I: Programme activities (pdf)

Concern has also been expressed over suggestions in the leaked annex that different "pillars" of the research programme may be merged with the aim of prioritising "industrial competitiveness".

See: Civil society reaction to leaked proposal for next EU research programme (Global Health Advocates, link)

Military spending

The Commission proposes spending €13 billion on a European Defence Fund between 2021 and 2027, with €4.1 billion for research and €8.9 billion for "capability development".

This is necessary, argues the proposal, because:

"In today's world, guaranteeing security means dealing with threats that transcend borders. No single country can address them alone. Europe will need to take greater responsibility for protecting its interests, values and the European way of life, in complementarity and in cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation... To be ready to face tomorrow's threats and to protect its citizens, Europe needs to enhance its strategic autonomy. This requires the development of key technologies in critical areas and strategic capabilities to ensure technological leadership."

Three objectives for the Defence Fund are set out: "fostering the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the defence industry"; "supporting and leveraging cross-border cooperation between undertakings throughout the Union"; and "supporting collaborative projects throughout the entire cycle of research and development".

The process leading up to recent decisions to boost military spending has been critically examined in the Vredesactie report: Securing profits: How the arms lobby is hijacking Europe's defence policy (link to pdf)

See also: Scientists step up opposition to EU funding of military research (Science|Business, link)

Rights, values and justice

There is also a proposal for a Justice, Rights & Values Fund: "a new EU instrument comprising two funding programmes: the Rights and Values Programme supporting equality and rights (with a foreseen budget of €642 million) and the Justice Programme (€305 million) promoting the development of an EU area of justice."

These would supercede the existing Justice Programme, which has a budget for 2014-20 of €377 million; and the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, whose current budget is over €439 million.

The two main objectives are to empower EU citizens "through the promotion and protection of rights, values and equality and through creating opportunities for engagement and participation," and to contribute to "the further development of a European area of justice based on the rule of law, on mutual recognition and trust, in particular by facilitating access to justice, by promoting judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters and the effectiveness of national justice systems."

Documentation

Further documentation is available: Legal texts and factsheets on the EU budget for the future (European Commission, link)

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