By preventing and protecting citizens from threats, Europe’s police officers are rightly perceived as the guardians of safe societies. However, the evolving security threats and challenges force Europe’s police officers to play increasingly diverse roles with increasingly diverse skillsets. When working together for a more secure Europe, it is crucial to consider the key role that police officers play while at the same time acknowledging the impact of changing security threats on European police forces.
The capacity of national police forces to counter criminality is being seriously compromised because of the severity of the public expenditure cuts on police pay and budgets throughout the EU. While the extent of police budget cuts and austerity vary widely across the EU, the EU’s open borders mean that decreases in Member States’ internal security budgets have a knock-on effect on security within the wider region. EuroCOP therefore believes that investment in necessary equipment and training for police officers is crucial. With the necessary investments, police officers will be better equipped and trained to combat security threats. When police officers are better equipped and trained, police cooperation across borders will be facilitated. Enhanced police cooperation across borders will make it possible to better define and combat security threats.
In July 2014, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the new EU Internal Security Strategy (the so-called European Agenda on Security) which offered EuroCOP the opportunity to share its written input on the challenges that European police officers face, highlighting the impact austerity measures, and providing concrete recommendations for actions that would have a positive impact on security. EuroCOP actively contributed to the discussions in Brussels in late 2014 and early 2015 to inform policymakers about the role of police officers and our position.
- On 28 April 2015, European Commission First Vice-President Timmermans and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos presented the new European Agenda on Security. Of particular interest, the Commission document reflects many of the points made by EuroCOP, for instance:
- The effectiveness of police cooperation tools relies on law enforcement officers in Member States knowing how to use them.
- Police training is essential to allow authorities on the ground to exploit the tools in an operational situation.
- CEPOL should adapt its yearly training programs to the priorities set out in the Agenda and national police academies should also use EU funding to make cross-border cooperation an integral part of their own training and practical exercises.
- The recently created Internal Security Fund provides a responsive and flexible tool to address the most crucial challenges up to 2020. Priority uses of the fund should include updating national sections of the Schengen Information System, implementing the Prüm framework and setting up Single Points of Contact. The Fund should also be used to strengthen cross-border operational cooperation under the EU Policy Cycle for serious and organized crime.