The evolution of internal security governance in Europe

To understand the substance and dynamic of European internal security governance, it is not sufficient to start with a conventional narrative of the impact of 9/11 or the latest security crises. International cooperation against various forms of crime has a long tradition and includes a wide array of issues and institutions, though it has often received limited public attention (Andreas and Nadelmann, 2006; Deflem, 2002;Jakobi, 2013). INTERPOL - the only worldwide platform for police cooperation - was founded in 1923 in Vienna as a response to the then pressing problem of transnational anarchist terrorism, which had contributed to the outbreak of the First World War. And as soon as the horrors of two World Wars and the rise of totalitarianism had somewhat subsided, political extremist and nationalist-separatist terrorism raged in many areas of the world. Moreover, the global problem of drug consumption has been present since the 1960s, with the USA driving a first truly global campaign under the aggressive label of the ‘War on Drugs’. Ever since then, questions of international legal harmonisation and cross-border law cooperation have steadily risen on the political agenda. This trend also is reflected in the work of international organisations, as exemplified by the creation of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961 and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in 1968.

However, European states could be seen as pioneers of cross-border legal and criminal justice cooperation. After the Second World War, the Council of Europe, which served as the first political, rather than economic, venue for European integration, developed a number of conventions, mechanisms and forums for criminal justice cooperation as well for the defence of the liberal constitution of its member states. Thus, the Council of Europe pioneered a convention for extradition (1957) and mutual legal assistance for criminal proceedings (1959). In the 1970s, a first convention against international terrorism (1977) was agreed. These political developments were flanked by a number of informal working groups among West European states, such as the Pompidou or Dublin Group dealing with drug trafficking. Other flexible professional networks for various aspects of counterterrorism, drugs and related financial crime developed beyond the remit of the Council of Europe, such as the Club of Berne connecting national intelligence officials or the Police Working Group on Terrorism between West European states. To the present day, this trajectory shapes the field of European internal security governance, which continues to heavily rely on a multitude of long-standing as well as newly founded informal networks (Bures, 2012; den Boer et al., 2008). Yet, perhaps equally importantly, the Council of Europe was founded on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights - defended by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg - which was meant to safeguard European states against totalitarianism after the end of the Second World War. Consequently, the Convention and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights developed as a counterweight to overly security-orientated conceptions of the role of the modem state, and repeatedly ruled against European member states in their approach against terrorism and migration or with regard to additional aspects of the criminal justice systems, such as penitentiary conditions. This also applied to key Western European states, such as the UK and its confrontation with Irish terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Building on these dual tracks of transnational security cooperation and protection of human rights, further European security institutions have started to look into these issues since the 1990s. The OSCE built on its established role as a 'soft’ security infrastructure (see Chapter 5) through new programmes on issues such as ‘violent extremism’ and human trafficking, while also seeking to promote the Rule of Law and criminal justice reform in parallel. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe expanded its membership to the former Soviet bloc and sought to raise respective standards for the protection of human rights. These activities took an added importance as organised crime took on a new quality in Europe. Rather than as a regionally focused phenomenon, such as the original Italian Mafia, or thematically focused phenomenon, such as the global drugs trade since the late 1960s, organised crime emerged as a structural feature of the rapid economic, social and political transitions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Soon the groups and networks of criminal entrepreneurs and former state security professionals, which had comparatively easy access to weapons, moved across borders and became a security concern in Western Europe. Last, but not least, the protracted wars in former Yugoslavia added to rising structural immigration pressures to Northwestern Europe. Over the course of the 1990s, asylum seekers and irregular migration were not only regularly seen as possible sources of crime, but were increasingly seen as a serious threat to European identities and social welfare systems (Huysmans, 2006). This rising concern with migration led to further international dialogues and European platforms to control this phenomenon, such as, for instance, the so-called Budapest Process.

Against this background, the EU started to take on a more central security role. The transformation of the European Economic Communities into the European Union in 1992 laid the foundation to move beyond economic integration under the so-called ‘First Pillar’ and to include the work of police and criminal justice authorities under the so-called ‘Third Pillar’ - while European foreign policy coordination occupied the middle 'Second Pillar’. The formation of the Third Pillar built on some older mini-lateral initiatives in the fight against

Table 7.1 Legacies and overlapping forums for internal security governance (non-exhaustive)


Current member states


issue area(s) of internal security




Drugs, terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime

Council of Europe (CoE)



Human rights, criminal justice, terrorism, migration




Terrorism, human rights

Club of Berne



Terrorism (and espionage)

Police Working Group on Terrorism



International terrorism

Pompidou Group



Drugs trafficking and abuse

Schengen Convention



Border security, police cooperation, irregular migration

Budapest Process




Lyon/Roma Group



Drugs, organised crime, terrorism

international terrorism in the 1970s - the so-called TREVI Group - but was mainly triggered by the 1985 Schengen Agreement for the abolition of border controls between France, Germany, and the Benelux countries. This groundbreaking commitment set a long-lasting integration dynamic into motion which is to compensate for the abolition of national border controls by increased transnational cooperation between police and border control authorities (Monar, 2001). This momentum for increased transboundary security cooperation matured by the mid-1990s into a first shared European data network for internal security purposes, the Schengen Information System (SIS) and a detailed set of rules on police cooperation, the Schengen Codex. By the late 1990s, the Third Pillar and the Schengen Codex were integrated and gave rise to formal integration objectives of the EU, which was to create the so-called ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’, which should allow a seamless, trustworthy and efficient cross-border cooperation between police and criminal (as well as civil) justice authorities in the EU. 1999 also saw the formal creation of the first common European police institution, EUROPOL, which took inspiration from the global organisation, INTERPOL. In this sense, the rise of internal security in the EU could mainly be seen as a political ‘spill-over’ from Schengen and the Common Market, even though external developments and broader processes of securitisation, such as the rise of organised crime and irregular migration, also played a role (Huysmans, 2004).

Hence, the attacks of 11 September 2001, when a group of terrorists associated with al Qaida killed close to 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia, marked a decisive date, but not the crucial foundation for European internal security governance.

Just as after the end of the Cold War, existing European security institutions and platforms sought to adapt and expand their work to the evolving political priorities. The OSCE increased its emphasis on reforming the justice and law enforcement sector in former Communist countries and added ‘countering violent extremism’, including the role of religion, as a key dimension to its previous work on minorities and ethnic discrimination (Wuchte and Knani, 2013). The Council of Europe expanded its existing legal convention on terrorism in the direction of prevention and increased criminalisation of support for terrorist organisations. NATO used its existing expertise to address the possible use of chemical, biological and radiological weapons and materials by terrorists (de Nevers, 2007). Overall, the USA exerted considerable pressure on partners and international organisations to shift their priorities and policies, ranging from increased biometric and financial data collection over intensified collaboration in the (occasionally illegal) detention and prosecution of terrorist suspects to contributions to flexible military coalitions, ft, thereby, managed to install the now so-called ‘War on Terror’ as a global meta-narrative (Buzan, 2006).

At the time, the EU could contribute little to this harder approach to global counterterrorism. However, the EU boosted its profile across all areas of internal security (Argomaniz, 2011; Bossong, 2013). In particular, the implementation of the planned Area of Freedom, Security and Justice was accelerated, exemplified by the adoption of the Single European Arrest Warrant in 2001. Instead of a traditional intergovernmental coordination process between justice and interior ministries, this new instrument was based on the assumption of ‘mutual trust’ between European member states and should allow any national police and criminal justice authorities to issue an arrest warrant that could be directly enforced across borders. Similarly, in 2002, EUROJUST was founded as a dedicated EU-agency for supporting criminal justice authorities across borders. The subsequent serious terror attacks in Madrid 2004 and London 2005 underlined the momentum for increased security cooperation, ranging from new preventive efforts against radicalisation into terrorism over regulation for aviation security standards to financial sanctions against terrorist suspects. Over the following years, the range of European internal security issues continued to expand, especially in the fields of critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity and disaster management. This could be illustrated by a large-scale blackout across Northwestern Europe in 2006 (van der Vleuten and Lagendijk, 2009) or the European financial support to the serious earthquakes in Italy in 2009 (European Commission, 2009). Elsewhere, we have argued that this created a new field of European ‘civil security governance’, where traditional concerns over natural disasters, such as floods, and new fears of technological risks and vulnerabilities increasingly came to overlap with the internal security field as outlined above (Bossong and Hegemann, 2015).

The Eastern enlargement of the EU in 2004 provided a further impetus to enact more stringent border controls for the Schengen Zone and led to the formation of FRONTEX as a new European agency for border control and internal security. Yet, just as EUROPOL was founded not as an operational police agency, but one focused on information exchange and analysis, FRONTEX was primarily conceived as an institution for risk assessment and as a coordination forum for national border guards (Neal, 2009). In parallel, European member states set up further platforms for migration control with view to the Mediterranean and

I EU member states fully participating the in the Schengen Area

Non-EU states which have fully implemented the Schengen Agreement

EU member states which have not implemented the Schengen Agreement

EU member states which have only implemented parts of the Schengen Agreement

Figure 7.2 The Schengen Area

Source: Wikimedia Commons (2017), 'Schengen Zone Map', Available at: wiki/File:Schengenzone.svg (accessed: 22 October 2018).

Africa, such as the Rabat or Khartoum Processes. But the 2000s were also a period when EU laws on irregular migration and border control, but also on asylum and international protection, became increasingly binding on EU member states (Thym, 2016).

The next major stepping stone for the development of European internal security governance was the adoption of the EU Lisbon Treaty.1 In the comparatively quiet period in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration between 2007 and 2012, the EU member states agreed to transfer the remaining aspects of the so-called Third Pillar for police and criminal justice cooperation to the regular EU decision-making and legal system.2 While previously internal security cooperation remained almost fully under the control of interior ministries, the Lisbon Treaty led to a growing involvement of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Court ofjustice of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty also made the so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights a legal foundation for all European policies and actions, including in internal security. In other words, the Lisbon Treaty could be seen as a critical milestone in a long process of moving from professionally driven networks to a full-blown institutional and political system for internal security governance at the EU level. This strategic shift was also flanked by a first explicit Internal Security Strategy of the EU (European Commission, 2010), which touched upon all possible threats emerging from organised crime, terrorism, irregular migration and, increasingly, also cybersecurity. Yet, the Treaty of Lisbon also underlined the ambiguities and historical legacies of European internal security cooperation. It highlighted that the operational provision of internal security - or the executive work of police, border and criminal justice authorities - would remain with the member states.3 Hence, the EU level remained focused on analysis, best practice and information exchange, which is the forte of EU agencies such as EUROPOL or FRONTEX, or on broad legal harmonisation. The EU remains far from a truly unified European criminal and internal security law.

This complex and ambiguous state of European internal security governance intersected with the last and - in the eyes of many observers most serious - crisis of European internal security that has developed since 2014. Around that time, the rise of the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) led to a new surge of international terrorism and a large flow of so-called ‘foreign fighters’ from Western European nations to conflicts in Syria, Iraq and beyond. Inside Europe, a string of attacks by lone attackers and organised cells put terrorism at the top of the security agenda. Meanwhile, the aftermaths of the Arab Spring in 2011 and the later escalation of the war in Syria created a dramatic spike in refugee movements to Europe. While dramas and deaths on the Mediterranean have occurred on a regular basis since the late 1990s, the accumulation of drownings between 2013 and 2016 and the march of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Greece through South Eastern Europe to Germany and Northwestern Europe caused a new sense of crisis. The unilateral decision of Germany to accept a large number of refugees and asylum-seekers relieved some of the immediate pressures on other European countries, but also invited the charge of a loss of control over European borders. The numbers of arrivals in South and Southeastern Europe during the peak period between summer 2015 and spring 2016 was such that many people could not be registered properly, let alone decently housed or properly managed through the regular asylum process. Finally, the fact that some of theterrorist attackers and IS supporters were (deliberately) channelled through the large-scale flow of refugees, or were subsequently recruited among disillusioned asylum seekers, added to a sense of overwhelming insecurity and failure of European internal security.

Unsurprisingly, this led to growing public demands for action from European security institutions. A Eurobarometer survey from November 2017, for example, found that the public considered immigration and terrorism the two most important issues facing the EU (European Commission, 2017b, p. 4). Internal security, thereby, moved from merely operational fora and professional communities to the political centre stage. In response, the EU entered a new period of deepening and extending its cooperation. This included, for instance, upgrading EUROPOL’s counter-terrorism capacities, boosting the European border agency FRONTEX, outsourcing border controls to the European neighborhood, and the integration of EU databases for migration control and police cooperation. At the time of writing, many projects and legislative proposals were still to be implemented or were under negotiation.

The most explicit formulation of the long-standing trend of treating European internal security issues as increasingly integrated, from both a thematic and geographic perspective, could be seen in the European Commission’s call for the formation of a so-called ‘Security Union’ as an overarching ideal (European Commission, 2015, 2016). In this official reasoning, organised crime, terrorism and irregular migration, thus came to be seen as one single ‘insecurity continuum’ (Bigo, 2006), while the borderless travel in the Schengen Zone was supposed to necessitate a truly unified European approach. In contrast to this narrative, a rising chorus of critical voices pointed to the increasingly illiberal or repressive nature of European internal security policies. This showed especially in the debates over the control of irregular migration, where the cooperation with neighboring countries such as Turkey and Libya raised harsh dilemmas (Carrera and Guild, 2016). While policy makers claimed that they wanted to save migrants from the dangerous and often deadly passage over the Mediterranean Sea, civil society organisations argued that the projection of internal security interests to third countries led to massive abuses of human rights and the exclusion of vulnerable persons beyond the eyes of the European public. The increasing rhetorical linkages between irregular migration and organised crime - and occasionally even terrorism -accentuated the danger that basic normative standards were being ignored and that illiberal populist forces could gain further ground.

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