EU security policies

  • May 18, 2017

Today, many threats are transnational in nature and cannot be addressed effectively without a common European approach. Therefore, the Lisbon Treaty defines security as an area of “shared competence” between Member States and the Union. The main responsibilities for security remain with Member States, but the EU has become a key framework for action: It acts as a policy maker (for strategies, action plans and concrete legislative proposals), a coordinator (between Member States’ actions), a regulator (e.g. for certification of airport screening equipment), a sponsor (funding of certain security activities) and as a customer (e.g. through the capacity building budget of Frontex).The following provides an overview of the main security-related EU policies.

Maritime Security

The purpose of the EU Maritime Security Strategy of 2014 and its Action Plan (last revised in June 2018) is to establish a common framework to better link internal and external activities, deliver cross-sectorial actions in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, strengthen cooperation and avoid duplication between relevant national and European actors, while mainstreaming maritime security into EU policies, strategies and instruments. The Action Plan includes over 130 actions in five work-strands. Work-strand A.3 (capability development, research and innovation) is of particular interest to industry.

Border Security

Border security has become a top EU policy priority, especially since the migration crisis in 2015. 

Under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, there will be a specific heading on Migration & Border Managementwith a proposed budget of €35 bn. It consists of the Asylum & Migration Fund (AMF) and the Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF). The latter has again two components, the instrument for border management and visa and the instrument for financial support for customs control equipment

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCGA), also known as ‘Frontex’,will be strengthened in terms of staff and technical equipment with a proposed seven-year budget of almost €12 bn.

Further key instruments of the EU border policy  are the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Visa Information System (VIS) and the European Agency for the operational management of Large-scale IT Systems in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA).


Cybersecurity has become a priority under the 2015 Digital Single Market strategy. The Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union, the NIS Directive and the European Agenda on Securityprovide the overall strategic framework for the EU initiatives on cybersecurity and cybercrime. The Cybersecurity Act has entered into force in June 2019. It revamps and strengthens the EU Agency for cybersecurity (ENISA) and establishes an EU-wide cybersecurity certification framework for digital products, services and processes.  The European Commission is also examining how to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation across different sectors of the economy and ways to develop civil-military synergies. A key tool in this area is the contractual Public-Private Partnership (cPPP) on cybersecurity.

Interconnected and data-driven infrastructures and systems are also vulnerable to possible back-door threats. In this context, the Commission has issued a Recommendation for a common European approach to the security of 5G networks in March 2019, consisting of national risk assessments by Member States, a coordinated EU-wide risk assessment and the development of a toolbox of mitigating measures to address the risks. Industry must work hand in hand with the European Institutions to better protect its companies and critical infrastructures against cyber-attacks.

External EU Policies

The EU has various external policies (Common Foreign & Security Policy, Neighbourhood, Pre-Accession, Development, etc.) which are supported by different financial instruments. Under the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, the majority of these instruments come under the heading Neighbourhood and the World. Most of these external instruments include security budgets, which have traditionally been distributed via (para-) public institutions for training and technical assistance in partner countries.

For the next financial cycle, €10.5 billion are planned to be spent for the newly set up European Peace Facility (EPF), which is an off-budget fund outside the MFF that will be financed through contributions by Member States. The EPF will serve as a permanent fund for EU military operations, support partners’ military peace support operations and finance broader actions of military or defence nature in support of CFSP objectives – including capacity building activities in third countries.

More information
Benedikt Weingärtner
Communication Manager
Security - Security Union