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Mobility Barriers in Europe

Mobility Barriers in Europe

Metin Gurcan, PhD, attended a conference in Antalya on December 7 organized by the European Citizenship Working Group of AEGEE Europe, one of the biggest interdisciplinary association across Europe gathering 13.000 members on 40 countries. The objective of the conference was to understand how and if young people are suffering from mobility barriers in Europe.

Concentrating on the security-mobility-privacy trilemma, Metin Gurcan delivered a talk at the conference elucidating the diverse experiences of mobility and the multiple vulnerabilities experienced by individuals that intersect with, and sometimes challenge, national security domains.

Indeed, developing and maintaining the European Union as an area of freedom, security and unrestricted mobility is a fundamental objective of the EU and is at the heart of EU citizens’ interests. In order to achieve this objective, one of the key challenges member states must overcome is the development of a coherent approach to safeguarding and promoting security, mobility and privacy within the EU. In many occasions however the simultaneous fulfillment of these three aims seems unachievable; and security, mobility and privacy are instead presented as mutually exclusive or antagonistic pursuits. In fact, the reality is rather more nuanced, and steps taken to improve specifically security, mobility or privacy can often also provide potential to leverage improvements in other areas. The key political question is whether and how the relationship between these concepts is likely to change over the coming years; and how national governments and the EU seek to communicate and explain such change.

To better understand the visa restrictions and limitations over mobility, Gurcan then underlined the changing nature of security. Security as a concept in our region has widened to an extent that even domains such as information technologies, cyber domain, traveling and transportation, money transfers, criminal issues like transnational smuggling, organized crime, human trafficking, and refugee crisis, pandemics, mass migrations, and natural disasters like droughts and earthquakes are defined within the concept of security and to a certain extent all these militarized. Security has also deepened in a sense that traditional state-centric understanding has got blurred and we are talking about human and global security as well. Finding a golden balance and harmony among these three seems hardly possible.

He then underlined that it is not always easy to define what we mean by security, mobility. Essentially, mobility here refers to the ease with which individuals can move across national boundaries for legitimate purposes; security means the safeguards in place to protect Member States; people and property; and privacy is defined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as the respect for private and family life, home and correspondence. It is easy to understand why these concepts are often viewed as antagonistic: indeed, some elements appear explicitly to incorporate “trade-offs”. For example, Article 8 EU Court of Human rights acknowledges restrictions to privacy are necessary in the interests of national security and public safety, to prevent disorder or crime, or to protect the rights and freedoms of others. Furthermore, a common response to improving security in an increasingly mobile society is to require personal data from travellers in advance of their journeys and to strengthen borders and reduce crossing points, potentially impacting upon both privacy and mobility.