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The Schengen System Has to Be Improved and Reshaped

The Schengen System Has to Be Improved and Reshaped

Rede von Bundesinnenminister Otto Schily im "European Institute" Rede Herrn Bundesinnenministers Schily anlässlich der Konferenz "Conference on Transatlantic Cooperation on Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism" des "European Institute" am 12. Juni 2003 in Washington, D.C. (engl. Text). Source: BMI Internetredaktion.

In the past 15 years, the world has changed at breathtaking speed. Europe's divide has been overcome by peaceful revolution, and the dangerous confrontation between East and West has come to a very happy conclusion. But it was an illusion to believe that also history had come to an end. Humanity now faces new threats from international terrorism, the full dimension of which we had never previously imagined. In a changing world, certain aspects of Transatlantic cooperation may also change.

For example Germany has in recent years assumed far-reaching responsibilities in military operations abroad. Currently, Germany deploys about 8,000 soldiers in peacekeeping missions throughout the world, from Afghanistan to Kosovo. This would have been inconceivable during the long period of the Cold War, and nobody would have dared to predict that it would be undertaken by a "red-green coalition" of social democrats and environmentalists.

Even if some aspects of Transatlantic cooperation may change the foundations of the relationship remain the same. Americans and Europeans share the same values; they are joined in the conviction that freedom, peace and justice cannot be separated and that each individual has a unique dignity that gives him or her, as a free citizen, the same basic rights.

Americans and Europeans are just as close when it comes to questions of security and counter-terrorism. We must be conscious of the fact that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were directed not only against the United States but against the entire civilized world.

The alliance between Americans and Europeans is not an alliance of convenience, but a partnership between friends. In the fight against terrorism, the U.S. and German administrations maintain close contacts at very high levels. Our security agencies work together effectively and on the basis of the greatest mutual trust. That includes learning from each other, cooperating to improve terrorist-fighting techniques and looking for the best available practices.

The European Union is much more than an economic and currency union. Europe is committed to becoming an "area of freedom, security and justice," an objective that is specifically stated in the European treaties. The heart of this area is currently composed of the 13 states that have signed the Schengen agreement, which has opened the Union's internal borders and established a common external frontier. The Schengen system has to be improved and reshaped. In future, visas and residents' permits for the Schengen countries will include a photograph, as do German permits and visas since the beginning of this year. Germany is pressing to shorten the transition period before the new EU legislation takes effect.

The next step will be to construct a Europe-wide visa database, and the European Commission has proposed to create a visa identification system. In Germany, we will expand our existing database, used mainly for registering aliens, into a comprehensive database on visa decisions. This database will contain records of visa applications, including photographs and decisions made at German consulates and embassies abroad.

In addition, we need Europe-wide forgery-proof standards for passports and identity cards. Germany is one of the strongest supporters of the European police agency, Europol, which helps national law enforcement agencies and security and intelligence services by gathering and analyzing information from all the EU member states.

Europol's anti-terrorism unit was strengthened last year to ensure that a suspect's personal data can be exchanged with the U.S. in the most effective manner. We should also create a Europe-wide basis for computer aided profiling and search.

Germany has had very good experience with this method, which has provided numerous investigative leads. It should be possible to replicate this experience at a European level. We have made progress toward ensuring Europe-wide international security, with standardized instruments, but not enough and not quickly enough. The European Union has to speed up its decision-making.

Another important element in fighting crime and terrorism will be to increase the number of public/private partnerships. Terrorism aimed at so-called soft targets and critical infrastructures demands vigilance and prevention by the whole of society. Prevention is obviously the most important goal, and the free market continues to be the best forum for the competition of ideas.

The private sector offers enormous potential in terms of producing innovative and creative solutions, and in most cases it works more flexibly, at a lower cost and more efficiently than the public sector. Both sides profit from partnerships between the public sector and private enterprise. When tasks and risks are distributed properly, this will be a win-win situation, reducing the burden on the state and opening new markets for businesses.

It is entirely legitimate that businesses seek profit as their top priority. Greater security, however, will also improve profitability, as a free market can thrive only in a secure society. Security is the backbone of our whole society, including the economy. Without security the economy cannot flourish.

Awareness of this truth is beginning to take hold around the world. In February 2003, for instance, the 21 member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) spoke out in favor of more public/private partnerships. They said that investment in security was expected to result in significant economic returns, not only by reducing the economic costs of terrorism but also by facilitating the movement of goods and people.

In Germany, we are already successfully using public/private partnerships in the security field. German passports are today produced by a private company at a rate of about 10 million a year. The Federal Printing Office, a venerable state institution that was privatized in November 2000, has become a dynamic and growing business in the free market.

In addition to passports, the Federal Printing Office produces identity cards, drivers' licenses, bank notes and securities, at the same high level of security as before privatization, or perhaps even higher. The German passport, with its holographic structure, is already recognized worldwide as a leader in terms of security standards. The Federal Printing Office has now developed prototypes of German passports with an integrated chip that can store biometric features of the passport holder, such as a photograph, in digitized form.

Incorporating biometrics into personal documents is also a major focus of the Munich-based company, Giesecke&Devrient, which has developed a project on automated border inspections using biometrics. This company produces personal identification documents to high security standards for foreign countries, including the United States. Among its many high-security ventures, it provides the equipment that identifies persons authorized to enter the World Trade Center site in New York.

Two other German companies, Rohde&Schwarz of Munich and Infineon Technologies, a Siemens subsidiary, are doing pioneering work in high-technology security and communication systems, often in collaboration with governments. Infineon is also developing an advanced new chip with IBM, an example of the willingness of German and U.S. businesses to cooperate with each other and participate in successful public/private partnerships. We need to expand this form of cooperation across the Atlantic. A major success in this effort was the first US-German Workshop on IT-dependent critical infrastructures, held in Berlin at the beginning of June with top experts from the public and private sectors.

Looking back on the developments of the past few years, I am very confident that together we will win the fight against terrorism. Germany and the United States have constantly strengthened their relationship, which has long been close and positive. Germany is playing an active role in the U.S. initiative on the issue of container security, and the United States immediately supported Germany's proposal that G8 countries should develop joint standards for the deployment of air marshals.

I have high expectations of the G8 working group on biometrics, which was also established at Germany's initiative. The introduction of new biometrics techniques offers enormous possibilities for public/private partnerships working in conformity with international standards. We can only defeat terrorism by working together. And together, with our joint efforts, we will indeed succeed.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).