We stand for security - Manfred Weber

On March 23, Arnaud Beltrame became a European hero. The French gendarmerie officer’s heroic bravery must act as a wake-up call to all of us to stand as one for enhanced security in Europe.

From Trèbes to Berlin, from Paris to Barcelona, Nice, Manchester or Brussels, terrorists know no borders and have one enemy in common: our European way of life. Terrorists are infiltrating Europe; their networks of hate and violence are here. They know: freedom without security is unthinkable.

Faced with this common threat, Europe must respond with firmness and pragmatism.

Beyond the indispensable tasks of prevention and fighting radicalisation, an efficient European security policy must be based on three pillars: improving the fight against terrorism, strengthening cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and better controlling our external borders.

The European Union must help to streamline the exchange of information between the relevant services in the member states, by facilitating the creation of common and interoperable files, by harmonising anti-terrorist legislation and by bringing together methodologies for the collection and analysis of data.

We need to reinforce our border check procedures and enhance data exchange to stop criminals or economic migrants who were already rejected from returning to Europe

But first we must strengthen existing bodies such as Europol. We must also promote the development and systematic use of technological innovation – for example, facial recognition tools and biometrics. A network of national police forces and intelligence services could also help monitor our infrastructure, especially that most vulnerable to chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

We must stand as one against terrorists and act together, from prevention to cracking down.

The second area is cybersecurity. Within the next few years, Europe will create a digital single market for nearly 500 million people. An immense melting pot of new innovation, job opportunities and economic prosperity, but also a playground for potential criminals. That is why we need high cybersecurity standards from the very beginning and, especially, we have to make big investments in fighting cybercrime through high-quality technology and well-trained officers.

Finally, the security of our continent will be ensured through strengthened control of our borders. The migration crisis is not a temporary crisis, but a long-lasting challenge for all of us. To be able to repel potential criminals and terrorists, we must absolutely know who enters Europe.

The European Border and Coast Guard must therefore be upgraded so it becomes an effective, self-operating border protection force. Its standing corps of 10,000 officers should be increased. Furthermore, we need to reinforce our border check procedures and enhance data exchange to stop criminals or economic migrants who were already rejected from returning to Europe.

For more effective returns management, we need a European return warrant, which would help prevent asylum tourism around Europe. If an asylum seeker has already been rejected by one member state, another member state should have the right to do the same.

In times of increased terrorism, cybercrime and a global migration challenge, security in Europe needs to become a more effective protective shield. The EPP Group fights for common, effective and future-oriented solutions. It is clear: there will be a secure Europe or no Europe at all.

Manfred Weber is chairman EPP-Group.

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