The European Union is a unique safeguard of political stability and security in Europe. Safety and security are political priorities for citizens, local and regional authorities, national governments and the EU. Peace, freedom and stability were the basis for the European integration that subsequently led to more economic growth and prosperity. With the recent terrorist attacks, with organised international and domestic crime, and with the confrontation to major natural or environmental disasters and dangerous public health crises, new challenges to citizens and democratic institutions emerge. Violence and terrorism will never be accepted as a legitimate instrument in democracy.
Together with their security authorities and Member States, European regions and cities are working across Member State borders to ensure a European standard of security and safety for EU citizens; to do that, they must not only adequately address the new international threats but also prevent and manage all kinds of crime and major disasters. The European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the Committee of the Regions believes that the EU should more than ever turn its attention to the Union’s priority policies and focus on public security and safety issues, including in particular at local and regional level. Local and regional authorities want to contribute to the eradication of the causes of insecurity in our cities by strengthening cooperation actions and developing and implementing a common strategy to promote cross-cultural and inter-religious understanding. They wish more common efforts and solidarity in Europe to fight against terrorism, whilst safeguarding citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms.
The EPP group in the Committee of the Regions therefore calls for:
Strengthening of the institutional framework
- solidarity, international cooperation and dialogue to be strengthened at all levels of government, in order to minimise – through joint efforts – the manifold risks to public safety and security. More than ever, is there a need to pursue with determination the objective of building a common area of freedom, security and justice in Europe;
- a real progress to be made towards mutual confidence and more and better common security policies, including conferences, practical cooperation and institutionalised contacts in order to foster the spirit of neighbourhood and common responsibility between the EU and its neighbours;
- the further development of Eurojust in order to make it an effective communication and early warning network, linking national prosecution authorities in a bid to improve national law enforcement;
- full support to be given to the role of Europol as stated in the Treaty establishing the Constitution for Europe whereby “Europol’s mission is to support and strengthen action by the member States’ police authorities and European laws shall determine Europol’s structure, operation, field of action and tasks. Any operation by Europol must be carried out in liaison and in agreement with the authorities of the Member States whose territory is concerned”;
- an enhanced European-level cooperation framework among national agencies participating in the fight against terrorism and organised crime;
- the application of the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions taken by the competent authorities in the EU Member States;
Fighting against crime and terrorism
- an improved exchange of information and cooperation among national public authorities concerning terrorist offences, retention of communication data and increased exchange of intelligence;
- an increased cooperation between local and regional authorities in the prevention and fight against terrorism, crime, racism and xenophobia;
- the safety of all citizens to be guaranteed by preventing social exclusion, drug addiction and violence in schools and society and fighting against all kinds of discrimination. We encourage schools, social services, corporate and voluntary organisations to step up cooperation (including the security authorities) and to play a part in providing widespread information and education in the areas of crime prevention and general public safety;
- better prevention of terrorist attacks and management of their consequences, by improving communication with citizens and assuring adequate measures for support, assistance and compensation to the victims of such attacks;
- safety and security policies to be mainstreamed in urban projects, using security expertise in urban planning and renewal projects and promoting public awareness of security needs at local and regional level;
- financial support to be given to local authorities in the framework of the mainstreamed urban programmes within the general provision on the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, in order to co-finance additional costs linked to the prevention of terrorist attacks (control and safety in public transport and utilities networks, hospitals, public health-care systems, fire brigades etc.);
- a reinforcement of European research on security which will help foster cross-border cooperation, increase European industrial competitiveness, and strengthen Europe’s research base. It will enhance Europe’s security, which is in itself a precondition of numerous Community policies such as transport, energy and telecommunications, and in which local and regional authorities are directly implicated;
Improving civil protection
- further development in the exchange of information and expertise among all local, regional and national emergency centres;
- a better collection, evaluation and dissemination of information, sharing of experience, know-how, human resources and technical facilities to fight major natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and big fires or environmental disasters such as crude oil pollution and dangerous public health crises.
The EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions recommends to:
- stress the importance of local democracy as a defence against terrorism;
- encourage, where possible, the merger of bodies with overlapping remits (so as to rationalise and consolidate, and for reasons of synergy);
- set up a standing platform “Safety Net Grouping” within the EPP Group/CoR, composed of political leaders of European cities and urban areas in order to benchmark, in conjunction with the security authorities, crime, terrorism and major disaster prevention. This platform should draw the attention of the Committee of the Regions and other EU institutions to safety and security aspects of urban policies, particularly by disseminating examples and best practice;
- encourage local and regional administrations to exchange training programmes for security forces and to work towards synergy and partnership with appropriate security authorities;
- exchange information on emergency planning;
- mainstream safety and security policies in public transport and urban planning and renewal projects;
- promote the “handbook of best practices” – initiated by the Council of the European Union which comprises contributions from Member States including strategies for bringing police and citizens closer together, cooperation with associations and nongovernmental organisations, formation of local networks, data collection and collation, and cooperation with other police forces and institutions – and support its wide dissemination;
- encourage local and regional authorities to contribute to a fast and effective implementation of measures proposed in the handbook, especially concerning the creation of local networks;
- support the Preparatory Action of the European Commission in the domain of security research for 2004-2006, and the creation of a European Security Research Advisory Board planned for the end of 2004; Consequently asks the EU budgetary authorities to provide adequate financing and insists that the CoR should have a representative on the board to ensure that due account is taken of local and regional authorities and their important role in this field; Thereafter, supports the establishment of a more coherent security research approach, through the creation of European Security Research Programme from 2007 onwards;
- launch a Committee of the Regions action plan to foster the spirit of neighbourhood and common responsibility between the EU and its neighbours;
- issue an own-initiative opinion of the Committee of the Regions on safety and security in European cities after September 11th.