Dear Minister Ms Maria Ohisalo,
Dear Chiefs of Police and Customs,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I would first like to thank Europol’s Executive Director Ms Catherine De Bolle and the Finnish National Police Commissioner Mr Kolehaimen for the honour of inviting me to address this year’s European Police Chiefs’ Convention.
This event is very timely. You - the Member States’ law enforcement authorities - are at the very cutting edge of our work to face the security challenges of the day and to protect our citizens.
Your daily work and your across border cooperation is even more important
- at a time when terrorists try to infiltrate our borders, or take up arms from within the societies that bred them;
- at a time when organised crime is a multinational business with global supply chains;
- when cybercrime becomes a daily threat against our citizens, our economies, our democracies themselves;
I am the son of a Greek policeman, and I know the life of a policeman, first-hand.
Your role 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.
Today's policeman needs to have skills which would have been unthinkable in the not so distant past:
- Language skills to cooperate with colleagues across borders in Europe and beyond.
- IT skills, to use our information systems to the maximum and to counter cybercrime.
- An understanding of different cultures and ideologies, to identify signs of radicalisation and extremism on the street and on the internet.
Since I took up my duties as European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship in 2014, 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 Europol.
The Europol of today is not the Europol I visited when I took office. With your hard work, my support and the leadership of your Director Ms De Bolle, but also your previous Director Mr Rob Wainwright, we transformed Europol into a true hub of information exchange and effective cooperation.
Europol is today the European Union at its best: cooperation, trust and sharing of information. It is now a vital part of our daily work to build a genuine and effective Security Union in Europe.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Under the present Commission, the EU had to respond to a security crisis. 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.
The EU responded with a plan to implement a true Security Union, and I am pleased to say that progress has been made and continues. Member States authorities are making increased use of Europol’s services.
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, and facing threats together.
Agencies, and Europol in particular, can and will play a decisive role in ensuring security in EU. Some threats are just emerging, we are just seeing the emerging of the iceberg.
At EU level, we have been working to reinforce the tremendous work of national law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol.
For example, during the past four years, we have been at the forefront of preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. Thanks to the EU Internet Forum, an initiative I took four years ago, solid and trustful cooperation has been established with our Member States, the Internet Industry and Europol. Many of the global initiatives that the industry has taken, such as the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, have grown from this cooperation.
The Christchurch call for Action created a momentum for global commitment and action. The EU Crisis Protocol, which Europol and Member States are building together should receive political commitment by all stakeholders at the next meeting of the EU Internet Forum next week in Luxembourg.
On top of that, we now have EU rules in place that heavily criminalise terrorists offenses such as distribution, whether online or offline, of a message with the intention of inciting a terrorist offence, such as glorifying terrorist acts.
In addition, we delivered on the interoperability of EU information systems. The European search portal – a key component of interoperability – will enable authorised users to query multiple systems simultaneously, including relevant Europol data.
Under the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), Europol will be responsible for entering data into the ETIAS watchlist. This will allow advance security checks of anyone travelling visa-free to the EU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The EU is collectively stepping up to improve our security, and you are at the very forefront of these monumental changes.
You are bringing change and real impact, on the ground. But most importantly, you bring security to our citizens in their daily lives.
I think that we can be proud of the fundaments that we have built together and the paradigm shift that we have achieved.
Only a few years ago, security was very much considered as matter of national competence. Terrorism and organized crime do not recognize borders. We achieved a big change of this mentality, as we worked on truly European solutions.
I want to express my sincere appreciation for all the work you are doing in order to make sure our citizens feel safe in their European home.
You should know that in me, you will always have a close ally. I know what it takes to be a policeman, and I will always support your work in every way I can.
I have no doubt that Europol will only continue to further ascertain its role as a crucial security player on both the European and global arena.
I am proud to have been the European Commissioner responsible for Europol, but most importantly to be working together with Europol and Member States authorities on all these important issues.
It is only by working together that we can be successful in fighting the security challenges facing us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The very essence of the European Union in a collective union of citizens and nations is reflected in what Europol represents today:
A paradigm of exactly what we mean when we talk about the European unity. Solidarity, responsibility, cooperation, and above all trust: Trust between the Member States,trust between nations, trust between citizens and European Institutions.
Dear Chiefs of the law enforcement authorities,
On behalf of the European Union, I would like to express our congratulations for all your achievements, your commitment and your spirit of duty.
I urge you to keep up your noble mission in the name of our citizens and our common house, Europe.