On July 10-11, 2012, in partnership with The Presidential Administration of the Republic of Romania, GMF hosted the second "International Forum on Border Security.” The forum brought together leading thinkers and policy makers from Europe, the United States, and Israel to discuss the unprecedented political and operational challenges in the area of border security and to build consensus on solutions to internal and external border challenges.
Following the inaugural Border Security Forum, held in partnership with the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in Warsaw on December 2011, the forum addressed the complex convergence of border risks, including terrorism, transnational organized crime, illegal immigration and threats to commerce. Forty senior level policy makers and experts from the U.S., Europe and Israel convened at the forum in Bucharest for an off-the-record discussion. Hosted by the Presidency of Romania, the event was also attended by Romanian officials in the field of border security.
The forum commenced with a policy dinner, moderated by Andrew Michta, Director of GMF's Warsaw Office. Introductory remarks were presented by Iulian Fota, National Security Adviser Romanian President Băsescu, and Ivan Vejvoda, GMF Vice President for Programs. Expert speakers, including Edgar Beugels, Head of the Research and Development Unit at FRONTEX, and Ran Segev, Director of National Security Doctrine Division in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Israel, addressed the rise of terrorism, transnational organized crime, and illegal trafficking of people, narcotics and arms. Both speakers noted the challenge of border relations in the cases of Israel and Egypt or the EU and Turkey as well as the impact of the Arab Spring on border security, with particularly focus on Israel and Europe.
A lively question and answer session focused on the impact of the financial crisis on increased migration flows, as well as the impact of criminal networks emerging due to increased unemployment. However, some positive outcomes from the crises have been outlined by participants such as John Wagner, an Executive Director from the Admissibility and Passenger Programs from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who argued that border protection and passenger control organizations are now forced to work around tightening budgets that demand a more practical and smart approach to reaching targets and eliminating border-related threats. So, more can be done for less.
On day two of the forum, participants convened in three different session focusing on ‘Cross-border Terrorism’, ‘Border Security and Technology,’ and ‘Focus Area of Border Security – Aviation.’ Clear differences between the allies emerged in the session debates, particularly on the right approach to airline safety, the use of technology and on the issues of border militarization versus policing. Divergent approaches to border security were evident in the discussions with European policymakers noting the EU's movement away from a military approach toward a policing approach to border security with FRONTEX maintaining its lead role. Israeli participants advocated a different approach with an overarching body that has effective control of its borders, until now guaranteed only by the army.
Michael Gaul, a Senior Advisor at the Emerging Security Challenges Division in NATO, addressed NATO’s various operations in Afghanistan where border police forces are trained to prevent the trafficking of narcotics and small arms. He outlined the ‘Ocean Shield’ operation, which aims to prevent terrorist and piracy attacks off the coasts of Africa. Timothy Joseph O'Sullivan IV, Regional Operations Manager at EUCOM's Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center discussed his agency’s role in counter-trafficking. He noted that EUCOM is continually on the lookout for illicit trafficking of WMDs, humans and narcotics. He argued that information sharing and cooperation among the allies is key to addressing cross-border problems, as no state can individually handle its complexities.
At the security technology session, which showcased many innovative border security protection systems, participants discussed whether advanced border-protection technology can successfully replace the human role. There was broad consensus that technology--no matter how advanced--cannot eliminate humans from the process, especially when assessing risks. While technology can speed decision making, leaders must have the final word.
In the concluding session on aviation, well-known aviation expert and former Director of Security in the Tel Aviv Airport, Raphael Ron demonstrated terrorism prevention methods that go far beyond the standard security checks familiar to ordinary travelers. He noted that people often mistakenly base their judgments on racial profiling and criticized the carelessness and lack of proper training that have led to several incidents following the 9/11 attacks. He argued that too much security is not enough and that airport safety itself is non-negotiable. Dr. John Clark, Professor of Leadership, Management and Defense Planning at the George C. Marshall Center, followed Ron's remarks by noting that aviation security is already overinvested in contrast to railway security, which is just as prone to terrorist attacks. Dr. Clark argued that, in general, aviation security strategy must be reconsidered.
Concluding the forum, Andrew Michta invited guests to participate in future GMF initiatives on border security. Taking into account the level of the discussion and expertise provided, the ‘International Border Security Forum’ is likely to become an educational and political platform both for government officials and experts. With a follow-on event in Germany planned for December 2012, and further forums potentially in Israel and in the United States, the forum is opening a new arena for GMF activities and expertise.