European Union stands at a critical stage regarding the evolution of the european project. Τhe increasing migration pressure in the Mediterranean, in combination with a declining protection of fundamental rights are significant challenges for the European Union and the Member States. These challenges need to find cooperative solutions to effectively strengthen the basic principles and values of the EU, as well as to demonstrate solidarity and to support Justice, integrityand cohesion in the EU. A well-functioning European area of Freedom, Security and Justice is a prerequisite for fighting criminality and corruption and for ensuring to a large extent security and a proper implementation of fundamental rights within the EU. As a result, the level of financial resources provided for this area by the EU budget for the coming future shall be fully budgeted. The Commission shall establish a permanent and sustainable mechanism for financing migration and security actions and to rely on flexibility mechanisms for financing unforeseen crises.
In this view, the increase of about 6.7% of commitment appropriation for Heading III (Security & Citizenship) from 3.49 billion euros in 2018 to 3.73 billion euros in 2019 is a step in the right direction.Τhesame applies for the increase of commitment appropriationsfrom 10 billion euros in 2018 to 11.38 billion euros in 2019 (+13.1%) as well as of payment appropriations (17,0%) for heading IV (Global Europe). Also the proposed full use for 2019 of the unallocated margin under heading IV, as well asthe allocation of more than1 billion euros from the Global margin for commitments in order to reinforce Humanitarian Aid and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) shall be considered positively.
Moreover, the significant increase of Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) commitment appropriation by 401.7 million euros (+56%) in order to finance the new Dublin legislation and an envelope of 175 million euros requested for Greece following the end of the Emergency Humanitarian Support instrument on 1 January 2019, should be regarded as a positive development. It shall be noted that 1.45 billion euros are budgeted in the EU budget to finance the “Facility for Refugees in Turkey II” and that 560 million euros are budgeted for addressing the Syrian Crisis.
Ιn view of the ongoing deterioration regarding fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law and judicial independence in Turkey, EU institutionsshall effectively monitor the proper allocation and implementation of the aforementioned money flows.In this respect, the reduction of the commitment appropriations for Turkey regarding the Instrument for Pre-Accession assistance by253 million euros compared to the initial indicative strategy paper is welcomed.
Moreover, the level of funding of European Asylum Support Office (EASO) which matches its initial request to the Commission shall be welcomed.The same applies for the significant increase (16%) of the administrative expenditure to cover the new responsibilities for the Secretariat of the European Data Protection Board (EDPS), as well as its additional needs in relation with the new data protection rules in the EU institutions and for the monitoring and ensuring compliance with the data protection rules of ex-third pillar agencies.
However, it shall be mentioned that unfortunately this is not the case for European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA). This shall be rectified, as 2019 will be an extremely challenging year for eu-LISA given the substantial increase of its tasks and budget allocated. Therefore, it is expected that eu-LISA will need in 2019 an adequate reinforcement of its resources to deliver according to its new mandate.
On the other hand, the establishment of a budget of 4.9 million euros for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) shall be regarded positiviely. The new EU prosecutor will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings. Such intervention is needed to effectively fight against illegal profits that organised criminal gangs make every year by circumventing national and European rules. This should lead to more successful prosecutions and more efficient recovery of defrauded money.
It is therefore regrettable that Eurojust is the only Justice and Home Affairs agency facing budgetary and postcuts in 2019, involving a counter-productive reduction of commitment appropriations for the Justice Program by -2.5 million euros (-5.4%). Concerns are also being aroused, because the current Commission proposal for the funding of Eurojust in the next 2021-2027 Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) seems to be insufficient, as it corresponds to a cut of 15% on an annual basis compared to 2018.
In this context, itshall be stressed that such a reduction is untenable given the operational growth and the political priorities in security and justice within the EU. Itshouldn’t be ignored that security threats have intensified and diversified in Europe over recent years. They have come in the form of increasing terrorist attacks, new types of organised crime, as well as a rise in cybercrime. Eurojust, as the EU body guaranteeing coordination and cooperation of investigative and judicial authorities, has to play a significant role in the fight against serious cross-border crime and terrorism. As a result, the budget ofEurojust for 2019 shall be increased or at least remain at the same level than in 2018 (€38.6 million). MoreoverEurojust shall be provided with a total of 217 posts for 2019.
Furthermore, it is also regrettable that the budget of Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in 2019 is not increased. This raises concernsas FRAis expected to be confronted to new tasks and responsibilities in 2019 as fundamental rights are under an ongoing pressure and threat across Europe and all over the world. The appropriate funding of adequate oversight mechanisms in the area of Justice and Home Affairs is therefore of great importance.
In conclusion, it shall be kept in mind, that the proper implementation of the budget especially in the crucial sector of Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs can decisivelycontribute to strengthen the unity of the European project and enhance the enforcement of fundamental principles of the EU, such as protection of human rights, solidarity, joint cooperation and democracy.
Thank you for your attention!