Ladies and gentlemen,
I would first like to thank CEPOL’s Executive Director Mr Detlef Schroeder for the honour of inviting me to attend the graduation ceremony of the second completed cycle of the European Joint Master Programme.
I am told that some students among you have obtained the remarkable distinction of 99% and even 100% marks! I am really proud of you and so should you be.
As you know, Cepol is in the framework of my political responsibilities together with other EU agencies such as Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and EASO.
From the very first moment, our vision for the future of this important Agency was, and remains, to become in the coming years a genuine European Police Academy.
Today, I would like to congratulate you, the graduates from this programme, for having worked hard and reached this important step forward in your career and knowledge and also to thank all the management staff in CEPOL for having guided you through this enriching process.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today's law enforcement personnel needs to have skills that would have been unthinkable in the not so distant past.
The role of Police Officers is becoming vastly more important, more multi-faceted and more complex simply because today’s security environment does not stop at any border, is less predictable and more quickly evolving than at any time in recent memory.
There is a tremendous growth of technological development and of the impact of technology on our everyday life, including of course in the field of security.
The internet now is the most important battleground for terrorists’ action in the 21st century.
That is where people get radicalised to terrorism overnight. That is where they get instructions on how to attack. And that is where they glorify their attacks to recruit others.
Many attacks in Europe and outside our borders, and most vividly the recent ones in Christchurch, in Paris and in Halle in Germany, served as a strong reminder, for companies, governments and law enforcement authorities to collaborate closer to curb the dissemination of hateful ideas online.
This is something we foresaw already back in 2015, when I launched the EU Internet Forum, a very important initiative for the trustful cooperation between Member States and Internet companies, which has led to concrete actions and results against terrorism and violent extremism online.
In the beginning, some believed it would not work as there was a lot of mistrust between the public and the private sector. But the outcome is very positive. The EU Internet Forum also gave birth to new initiatives such as the Global Internet Forum.
At the fifth EU Internet Forum that took place last week we moved forward with the development of an EU Crisis Protocol – a rapid response to contain the viral spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online.
Our Police staff need to be trained in how to tackle newly emerged threats, and in parallel to be aware of the use of the plethora of tools that exist and can strengthen police cooperation and this is exactly where CEPOL comes in.
Police officers need enhanced IT skills, to use our information systems to the maximum and to counter cybercrime and they need an understanding of different cultures and ideologies, to identify signs of radicalisation and extremism on the street and on the internet.
I have always been convinced and I repeat it – training is an essential part of our security “fundamentals”.
When I took office as European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship in 2014, nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow.
Within a few months, both migration and security were at the top of the global political agenda, because Europe at that time was unprepared. It had no similar experience in the past and we had to build almost everything from scratch.
Some believed it was a problem of South Eastern Europe. But that was not the case, it was a problem of international dimensions. This is why a global approach is necessary, because organised crime, terrorism and on the other side, migration, do not recognise borders.
On the one hand the arrivals of many refugees and migrants on Greek and Italian shores.
On the other, the terrorist attacks. Since the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015, and subsequent terrorist acts in a number of other Member States, it has become painfully clear how important cross-border law enforcement collaboration is.
It was clear that something about the way we worked on security in Europe had to change. That efforts had to come together. Unfortunately, the attacks, painful as they were, also served as a lesson to all of us.
The old way of doing business on security was not sustainable anymore. A new framework, based on trust and unity of purpose had to be built. And believe me it was not easy because most MS so called were very reluctant in exchanging information and trusting each other. Only when tragedies struck they realised that it was more than necessary. This happened during the last five years.
That is how we came to put forward the idea of a genuine and effective Security Union in Europe. A Union in which the internal security of one Member State is the internal security of all Member States. Where we all understand that fragmentation makes all of us vulnerable, and we work together to close down the space in which terrorists operate.
Security remains a key challenge for Europe and among the number one priorities for the EU. The Security Union we are building is about building trust, sharing resources, sharing information and facing threats together.
Agencies such CEPOL can and will play a decisive role in ensuring security in EU.
CEPOL of today is not the CEPOL when I took office. Since I became European Commissioner, we have taken decisive actions to modernise the European security framework through new legislation, through reinforced operational cooperation between Member States, and through strengthening the role of CEPOL.
The reformed legal framework has reinforced CEPOL's ability to prepare police officers, to cooperate effectively, to develop a common law enforcement culture and to become the centre of excellence of training of law enforcement officers of the EU. Moreover, the evolution of the Agency is shown by the growing number of trained officials, and the good reputation built among Third Countries, which benefit from CEPOL’s services.
On behalf of the European Union, I would like to express our gratitude and congratulate you for all your achievements, your commitment and your spirit of duty.
You should know that in me, you will always have a close ally. I believe in the spirit and the purpose of your mission. Something that brought us closer is that I am one of the few Commissioners to understand what it means be a policeman, regardless of whether you are from Spain, Portugal or Hungary. Because I am the son of a Greek policeman and I know what it takes to be a policeman, what it means for your family and I will always support your work in every way I can.
The fact that I was entrusted as Commissioner with this very important mission, to build from scratch the European Agenda on Migration and the Agenda on Security means that we have built a legacy for the next Commission to follow. A part of this legacy is the future of CEPOL.
I am sure there will be a follow up in our efforts to reinforce and strengthen this Agency because it is essential to respond to our challenges for the safety and security of our citizens.
I urge you to keep up your noble mission in the name of our citizens and our common house, Europe.