Security must not be the only agenda

Brussels has been locked down for four days. The last time I witnessed such a heavy presence of the army, I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina, eight years after the war’s end. Russian and then American troops were patrolling the streets daily, and sometimes choppers above our heads and Humvees on the roads were searching for the most wanted man at that time – Radovan Karadzic (who was captured only five years after I left). This became regular life, despite the Dayton Peace Agreement being in place.

It seems obvious that in these moments, security should come first. But can security alone be the alpha and omega of policy?

In Bosnia, protection of human rights and then implementation of the rule of law were deemed essential to ensure peace by the international community. Financial investment in the country and in the communities in most vulnerable situations was the European Union’s top priority, alongside police support and border controls – it was in fact the first EU police mission in history.

However, I am increasingly troubled to see that all other EU agendas – and in particular the social agenda – are being swept under the carpet at the moment. Last Friday [20 November] I was at a meeting on the topic of people experiencing poverty, organised by our member the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), and I felt that although we have one European in four experiencing poverty, this has fallen down the EU priority ladder, hidden by the current important priority of security.

We are made of solid democracies and institutions. An EU fit for purpose cannot be run under a constant state of emergency. After the “Greek crisis” in July, the “refugee crisis” in September, the “Brexit” crisis in October, and the “Terrorist attacks” now, the EU agenda is being constantly reshuffled, and priority is now given only to security, border control and tighter asylum policies.

There are enough institutions, Parliament committees, civil servants, social partners and civil society organisations who are not working on security matters to support the development and implementation of social policies needed for our population without jeopordising the security agenda and sapping its resources. Security is certainly of the upmost importance, but it needn’t come at the cost of the EU’s other priorities.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand, Director