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Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs
The Future of EU Funding for Home Affairs: A fresh look
European Commission Stakeholder Conference
Brussels, 8 April 2011
Let me start by wishing you all a very warm welcome to this conference. I am very pleased to see so many of you here today, from all corners of Europe, to discuss the future of EU funding for home affairs. Today is an opportunity for me to share with you some initial thinking on future spending for my portfolio, and, more importantly, to generate debate with key stakeholders.
Allow me first to give you an overview of current spending priorities before looking at how we might do things better in the future. I must also stress the preliminary nature of my comments given that the overall Commission proposal on the next multi-annual financial framework is not due for some months yet (end June). The feedback received from the recent public consultation and this conference will also need to be analysed and taken into account.
Overview of current Home Affairs policies and instruments
My portfolio currently includes migration including legal and irregular immigration, integration, asylum and return. It also covers the management of the external borders and visa policy. In the area of security, I am responsible for the prevention of and fight against terrorism and organised crime, as well as police cooperation. Through these policies, the EU aims to create an area without internal borders where EU citizens can feel safe and secure and where EU nationals as well as third-country nationals may enter, circulate, live and work, bringing new ideas, capital and knowledge. Cooperation with non-EU countries and international organisations in the above-mentioned areas is crucial to achieve these goals.
The share of home affairs in the EU budget is relatively small but has been growing steadily in recent years, matching the Union's enhanced competences in home affairs, as reflected in the Stockholm Programme and the Lisbon Treaty. Home affairs represents around 0.77% of the total EU budget and amounts to € 6.5 billion between 2007 and 2013. This covers home affairs financial programmes, but also funding for large-scale IT systems and agencies.
About € 4 billion or 62% of home affairs funding is channelled through the General Programme "Solidarity and management of migration flows". This makes it the biggest delivery mechanism for home affairs policies by far. Currently, the General Programme supports actions in the areas of migration, integration, asylum, external borders and return.
The General Programme comprises 4 Funds: the European Refugee Fund, the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, the External Borders Fund and the Return Fund. Each Fund has its own legal basis and is managed under the shared management mode. Although the Member States are in charge of the day-to-day management of the Funds and select the actions that will receive funding, the Commission bears ultimate responsibility for how funds are spent.
For spending on internal security, € 745 million (12% of the budget) was allocated for the period from 2007 to 2013. The General Programme "Security and safeguarding liberties" supports actions which, for example, aim to protect critical infrastructure, reduce terrorist threats, fight organised crime and foster co-operation between law enforcement communities.
Agencies account for 18% of the home affairs budget. As we are currently witnessing in the Mediterranean, FRONTEX has a huge and crucial role to play in ensuring the effective management of the EU's external borders. EUROPOL is a key actor in supporting and strengthening the actions of Member States' law enforcement authorities in their fight against organised crime and terrorism. CEPOL provides training for police officers around Europe to encourage the kind of information and knowledge sharing that is crucial to solving cross-border crime.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) provide indispensible information at EU level on drugs and the consequences of drug addition; It also collects, registers and analyses information on emerging trends and facilitates the exchange of best practices.
When it has become fully operational, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will not just collect information to support decision-making on asylum issues but will also support Member States whose asylum system is under particular pressure.
The future IT agency will become responsible for the management of our large-scale IT systems such as the Schengen Information System II, Visa Information System and Eurodac, which presently account for 7% of the home affairs budget. The future IT agency will also will develop and manage future systems [such as the planned Entry/Exit System and the Registered Traveller Programme]. Its specialist knowledge and know-how will improve development and management of the IT systems over time.
Priorities for the next Multiannual Financial Framework
Developments in North Africa in recent weeks and months only serve to highlight the vital role of EU spending in the area of Home Affairs. I have visited Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks and seen at first hand the potential that exists for positive and sustainable democratic change. Europe must support these efforts to build new democratic states based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. In my area we can establish cooperation in the field of mobility: asylum, migration, border control, fight against human trafficking and facilitating legal migration and mobility.
We need to be aware that our budget discussion of course takes place at a time of low economic growth and great budgetary pressures. In this context, it is also important to emphasise that there are clear efficiency gains to be had when we cooperate financially via the EU budget on border management, asylum and tackling cross-border crime and terrorist threats. However, these efficiency gains will only materialise if we have the right delivery mechanisms in place.
Simplification of budgetary structures will be an over-arching theme of the Commission's proposal for the next MFF. The need for simplification is also one of the main messages from the stakeholders who responded to the public consultation. The design of the next MFF provides a collective opportunity to streamline our procedures, which I intend to grasp. This is not just cosmetic. It will make prioritisation easier and reduce bureaucracy. There are four elements here:
First, I believe the total number of budgetary instruments in the Home Affairs area should be reduced. I am considering a 2 pillar structure, one focused on "migration", the other on "security". The future Migration Fund would support a comprehensive approach to migration, covering asylum, resettlement and intra-EU relocation, measures for the better integration of third-country nationals and return management. A future Internal Security Fund would cover external borders and visa policy, as well as more "traditional" internal security measures in the fields of the prevention of and fight against organised crime and terrorism, law enforcement cooperation and training.
Many existing policies will continue, but a new structure should also facilitate the discontinuation of projects that no longer deliver sufficient added-value at European level. In the area of integration, for example, it is time to move away from capacity building at Member State level towards more targeted support of strategies specifically designed to promote the integration of third-country nationals at local level. These strategies would be implemented mainly by local or regional authorities and non-state actors which would choose from a range of measures those most appropriate to their particular situation. Capacity building would only be supported for Member States joining the EU during the next MFF.
Second, we should move towards multi-annual priority setting and planning in a way that fits better with our political objectives: a significant part of the resources needed for managing borders, training policemen, and fighting cross-border crime is about medium-term investment in infrastructure and skills. The current approach of annual planning is too cumbersome.
Third, we should make greater use of the shared management mode. The preliminary results of the mid-term review of the current generation of shared management Funds in the Home Affairs area indicate that this is the appropriate delivery mechanism for most of our policies because it allows Member States to direct financial means to where they are most needed at the national level within a broader, strategic framework defined at EU level.
Fourth, it is crucial that the EU can react quickly and effectively in the case of unforeseen events or emergencies. Ongoing events in Southern Mediterranean illustrate how important it is that home affairs funding can be mobilised rapidly, flexibly, and in a manner coherent with instruments that provide emergency humanitarian assistance, including in third countries.
Agencies have a direct operational role in the implementation of home affairs policies. I anticipate that the role of agencies such as Frontex, Europol and EASO will continue to grow. But it is clear that this must be matched by appropriate changes in governance and a clear division of tasks and responsibilities.
One of the budgetary options I am looking at is to create an envelope of appropriations for the Home Affairs agencies in each of the two future Funds. This could then be distributed to the agencies to implement specific political priority actions decided by the EU policy makers and in response to emergencies.
The external dimension is a key aspect of home affairs, but it is also underfunded. The current situation is one of minimal leverage with third countries, partly because the small amount of funding that is available [approx EUR 55 million per year] is programmed as development assistance. We need to have a much broader approach when we want to work with third countries in areas of migration and security and today we have not enough to offer.
Substantial funding should therefore be available to fund home affairs-related activities in third countries during the next MFF. I therefore envisage introducing a considerable component in each of the 2 Funds I have mentioned.
Let me now turn to some concluding remarks. We need to think carefully about finding the right balance between spending focused on migration-related policies and financing projects that enhance our collective security and tackle cross-border crime. I am confident that the right balance can be found: this is a debate that will evolve over the coming months.
By taking a fresh look at the future of EU funding for home affairs, we can ensure that the next MFF addresses the real needs of EU citizens and third-country nationals alike in order to create a truly open and secure Europe.
I have already mentioned that the feedback to the public consultation will provide valuable insights into the views of stakeholders. I hope that this conference, and especially the workshops, will also contribute to this important debate. I wish you a fruitful discussion and thank you for your attention.