Europe in the World

All Things to All Men - Geopolitics and Competing Priorities at the EU’s External Border


Electoral demands to fight ‘illegal migration’ and cross-border crime, as well as to respond to perceived terrorist threats, have resulted in the growing politicisation of the EU’s external border. This process of politicisation has, however, not changed the fact that the EU’s current approach to border management is overly technocratic and has become increasingly reactive. By consequence, it is not suited to today’s geopolitics and lacks a clear long-term strategy. Without a strategy that effectively combines border management and foreign policy, the EU will not be able to tackle the current challenges in a coherent manner. Questions thus arise as to how the EU’s border management has changed, what the wider geopolitical implications for the EU will be, and how foreign policy and border management strategy can together become more effectively targeted at achieving the EU’s objectives.

It is in this context the EPC has jointly undertaken a project with the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) that explores these issues. The project has the kind support of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Ministry of the Interior of Finland. The project, through a set of targeted events and publications, considers how the EU’s border management has changed, what the wider geopolitical implications for the EU will be, and how foreign policy and border management strategy can together become more effectively targeted at achieving the EU’s objectives.

The project will focus on the effects of the increasing concentration on the external border with particular emphasis on its foreign policy dimension and addresses how best a balance between the two may be reached. This requires an analysis of how border management strategy and foreign policy can be used as complementary tools in creating an effective and stable external border. That balance must be capable of adequately responding to the challenges arising at the border, especially in the context of migration and security. This approach will necessitate an assessment of the role and involvement of the relevant actors, including agencies, institutions, and organisations, and third countries. In this regard, there are a number of other cross-cutting issues:

  • EU competence and member states’ political will, as well as cooperation between the national and EU levels (including how to utilise shared resources effectively at the border).
  • Geographical spread across the EU’s Eastern and Southern border (with a special focus on the Eastern and Central Mediterranean as focal points of migratory flows).
  • Human rights and the EU’s rules-based approach.
  • Internal-external security nexus

In close cooperation with the partners of this project, the EPC will organize a series of Roundtables in 2017 and 2018 specifically on these intersecting issues. The Roundtables will involve policy-makers, experts, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society representatives, both from the EU and third countries. The themes identified during these discussions will form the basis for a focused fact finding mission to Greece which will be undertaken in order to analyse the way the EU’s Integrated Border Management is implemented on the ground.

The EPC and the EUISS will present their findings through a final report which will be launched at a public event in October of 2018. These findings will also be presented at dissemination events in Helsinki and Paris in November of 2018.

This project is jointly undertaken by the EPC’s ‘European Migration & Diversity’ and ‘Europe in the World’ programmes. For more information, please contact Katharina Bamberg.

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