No issue generates more emotional debates both at home and abroad than that of ensuring our neighbourhoods, communities, public spaces and cities are safe and secure. From the overtly racist and xenophobic hysteria of the BNP, to the only slightly toned-down rhetoric of UKIP, to the frankly counter-productive and ineffective policies of a Tory government overtly pandering for the votes of the far right, to even a certain section of the Labour party voicing the anti-immigrant concerns of a working class afraid that jobs and benefits that are in shorter and shorter supply after drastic cuts will be awarded to Middle Eastern refugees and Eastern European migrants instead of aiding them and their families - a plethora of complaints against "foreigners", "immigrants" - the "Other" - increasingly dominate our mass media and political discourse. "Losing control of our borders" and "regaining it" from an "out-of-control European Union" are becoming not exceptional cries for attention, but accepted and acceptable demands of our political parties and institutions of government.
The underlying promise is that we will live in safer, more secure, more prosperous - indeed, more British! - communities if and only if we "take back" control of our own borders, drastically curtail immigration, and put 'Britain First" - or, in the more overtly racist but more clearly descriptive BNP motto: "Boot em out & shut the door!"
Nothing could be further from the truth. We live today in a complex security environment where the home and abroad, criminal and terrorist, real and cyber-threats have merged into a single, global arena. There are no longer any meaningful distinctions between the "in" and "out", the "home-grown" and "foreign", the "physical" and "virtual". We live in a multi-faceted, hybrid environment whose safety and security can only be guaranteed by cross-border cooperation between all threat-preventing networks, from national police organisations, to international security groups, to actual armed forces and NATO itself. They all constitute a continuum that must be capable of deploying, in an effective and legitimate manner, the full spectrum effects of increasingly sophisticated tools aiming to both prevent and deal with the consequences of break-downs in human security. These can happen at any level - locally in our communities, nationally in our cities, regionally and globally in countries such as the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, but also virtually throughout of increasingly sophisticated and accessible computer networks that act as both enablers and gate-keepers of our daily lives, both private and public.
It is then crystal clear that the visceral demands of all those who advocate that the UK regain control of its own borders, curtail the flow of refugees and immigrants, and keep Britain safe for hard-working British citizens, are nothing more than despicable appeals to our darkest fears and worst nightmares that not only would not bring about safer, more secure communities for us and our children, but to the contrary would create more dangerous, more xenophobic spaces increasingly open to real and virtual radicalisation leading to delinquency, criminality, even terrorism. Only by establishing clear rules of ensuring safe movement of individuals across Europe in both real and cyber-space, in cooperation with our European partners sharing similar concerns and objectives, will be able to truly address the challenges of our new, global, information arena with the full spectrum effects at our disposal and ensure that our neighbourhoods, communities, and cities are safe and secure for us and our children.
All of Europe - Britain included - is today in deep crisis.
A political crisis of legitimacy, as its national and supranational institutions have become entirely disconnected from the citizens they are supposed to represent.
A social crisis of solidarity, triggered by the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008 and highlighted by the ongoing Greek crisis.
A continental security crisis, stemming from renewed Russian expansionism in the Ukraine, from terrorist networks connecting our cities to conflicts in the Middle East, and from flows of refugees fleeing both and seeking safety, dignity, and a better life in the EU.
A global existential crisis, as the European Union and its Member States run the risk of being marginalized in a world dominated by the US–Chinese global condominium.
Today’s EU is increasingly incapable to deliver on its triple promise of peace, prosperity, justice, for the sake of which twenty-seven sovereign nations were willing to delegate many of their powers to a new, supra-national level of governance. And now, Team Cameron in the United Kingdom is even threatening to bring down with our BREXIT Referendum the entire post-war continental European structure, that has kept the Old Continent at peace for the longest uninterrupted period since the Nineteenth Century Vienna Congress…
Metternich’s Vienna Congress triggered the beginning of the modern Globalisation Era, starting in the 1840s and continuing to this day. As newly developing countries emerge from the shadows of the once-dominant Euro-American states and become key actors in their own right, the Old Continent is at a loss as to its heading. This unprecedented European crisis also offers us a unique opportunity to bring about a sustainable and resilient world – not by engaging in the Quixotian enterprise of attempting to “leave” the EU, but by redefining the meaning of supranational solidarity across European borders, and working together with all our European and North American partners to solve our common problems that we can no longer resolve on our own - in particular, the challenge of creating and maintaining safe and secure communities where we and our loved ones can live, work, and enjoy our shared environment.
It simply is not true that just because the EU has no coherent and effective policies to keep all its communities safe and secure, the UK would better be able to do so by "leaving" the EU, or by dramatically restricting the freedom of movement and establishment all EU citizens enjoy in the UK, as elsewhere on the continent. To understand this, we must bear in mind four key points:
1. The failures of the EU are those of its Member States. It is the failure of national politicians to agree to establish legitimate, effective, and compassionate institutions, policies, and practices capable of addressing both our daily problems of delinquency, violence, and criminality, and the rare but high-profile occurrences of terrorist attacks, mass migrations, and even armed conflict. The EU is failing because the national élites running it are failing. Their replacement by politicians willing and able to get the job done would result in a transformed European Union capable of living up to these challenges we must address today. The supporters of the "Out of the EU" option as well as Team Cameron and its friends claim that we can effectively deal with these challenges by "taking back control over our borders". This is pure demagoguery and deception that appeals to our baser instincts and - yes! - to our ignorance by blaming "others" and "foreigners" of challenges we can only face together, as a united continent.
2. Safe and secure communities require more, not less cooperation across borders. Increasing numbers of travellers, tourists, business people, relatives, students, professionals will continue to come in and out of the UK irrespective of whether EU citizens have the right to live and work here. Criminal networks will continue to operate across the UK borders and will have to be fought by sharing the most up-to-date information on their nature, aims, capabilities, and activities. Cooperation between law enforcement activities of institutions operating within various EU member states and across the entire European and even North American space is critical in achieving this objective. By "leaving" the EU, the UK will achieve exactly the opposite: a diminution in our abilities to confront such threats. Our communities and neighbourhoods will not be safer: to the contrary, the risk of delinquency, criminality, even terrorism will likely increase. We cannot solve our security problems by keeping the world at bay and isolating ourselves from Europe and the world behind moats, walls, and 24/7 CCTV systems. We simply must address the root causes of these problems, not just their most visible symptoms - and do so in cooperation with our European and North American partners if we want our actions to be successful.
3. Delinquency, criminality and terrorism take today many forms and operate in different environments - both real and virtual. The dividing lines between local and international criminal networks, between physical and cyber-crimes, between traditional gang activities and disruptive terrorist plots have been almost completely erased. Building prisons, increasing the number of police officers and constables, and installing more and more CCTV cameras in more and more public places throughout the UK is proving to be increasingly costly and less and less effective in providing our communities with the security we are entitled to. In today's information age, where communication and travel advances have reduced barriers of time and space to almost zero, we live in a total strategic environment characterised by hybrid information-centric crimes and conflicts that can be countered only by the use of full spectrum effects, from local crime-fighting to addressing in legitimate and effective ways complex conflicts such as the one currently going on in Syria. The United Kingdom does not have the requisite knowledge, resources, and capacities to do this alone. Together, we can lead safe and secure lives in a safe and secure European continent - or we can each on our own be the victims of delinquency, criminality, and terrorism. We swim or sink together. This is the stark reality of today's single intelligence environment that has morphed into one single arena traditional home and away theatres of activity, as well as local criminality and international conflicts.
4. Safe sand secure communities require appropriate burden-sharing between all members of the EU and of the Trans-Atlantic community we are part of. We must pull together our resources both in dealing with the perpetrators of criminal acts, and with the consequences of their actions. We must develop effective and legitimate military command structures capable of avoiding the humanitarian disasters now taking place in the Middle East, as well as effective on-the-ground response mechanisms to the consequences of such events, such as the identification, care, and settlement of those refugees that reach our shores in search for safer lives and brighter futures. The UK cannot do this alone; as events in the Mediterranean, in Hungary, and closer to us at Calais and in the Channel Tunnel have shown, trying to either ignore these crises or dealing with them only by insulating ourselves from their effects will be both ineffective and will put in question the core values of respect for the dignity of all individuals, for universal human rights, and for democratic principles of governance that form the core of our British civic identity. The safety of our communities depends on our ability to create a European Union where human security and continental solidarity move forward together.