A European space for mobility must go far beyond the EU itself

#CriticalThinking

Digital & Data Governance

Picture of Anna Terrón I Cusi
Anna Terrón I Cusi

Director at FIIAPP, former Spanish secretary of state for immigration and emigration, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Our 21st century EU is a common area within which its citizens can move freely. Opening up our internal borders wasn’t easy, as an open Europe had always to be balanced against internal and external security needs.

The Amsterdam treaty incorporated the Schengen agreement – and with that the freedom of movement as an EU right – and set the goal of creating an ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ (the AFSJ). It confirmed the steps needed for free movement, and also established a mandate for the remaining elements of the AFSJ, which included immigration and asylum policy. Today, the treaties define Europe as an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and oblige member states to guarantee a degree of international mobility that is unique in the world. In line with the AFSJ objectives, the treaties also established the need for a European migration and asylum policy. But the legal framework for both isn’t well balanced, with some EU states hanging on to their sovereign powers over both.

We cannot go on thinking of the area of freedom as a common construction internally, while managing asylum and immigration policy nationally without common governance rules and mechanisms

Managing immigrant and refugee flows while preserving the right to free movement and residence of EU citizens has been a major source of intra-EU tensions. And it has been thus for longer than many care to admit. One need only look back to 2011 and the episodes following the Tunisian revolution to see that the present situation is a crisis that should have been foreseen. After years of grappling with such crises, the EU has finally managed to respond to the refugee crisis of recent months. Such a show of solidarity has been long overdue. Now a longer-term vision for governing the AFSJ is needed.

The current AFSJ’s limitations are having a corrosive effect within the EU and have badly weakened our external policies just as we face enormous challenges beyond our borders. The link between external policy and what we consider to be domestic policy is becoming clearer by the day. We Europeans are now proposing a shared management of mobility to our neighbours, something that was unimaginable some decades ago, while at the same time our security is interrelated with theirs as never before.

A European space that is both open and secure requires a wholesale reform of the AFSJ. We cannot go on thinking of the area of freedom as a common construction internally, while managing asylum and immigration policy nationally without common governance rules and mechanisms. We need to strengthen the links between the different elements of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and move towards effective and complete implementation. Doing this will bring enormous political difficulties with it, but the risks of not doing it are already unacceptable because they call into question crucial elements of the European Union itself.

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