Security politics and citizenship in the Eu


Tamar Pitch

In this brief article I want to pose a few questions about the possible effects of security politics on the construction of a European citizenship. First, I shall define “security” and “citizenship”, by referring both to the existing literature and to the social and political processes this literature analyzes. I shall then describe some of the legal and political measures adopted by the EU in the name of “security”, principally, but not only, concerning migrants from third countries. These measures, combined with national and local legislations and rhetoric, I shall argue, tend to construct citizenship (at all levels: European, national, local) in exclusionary terms, around “fear” rather than “solidarity”, using an “us vs them” logic. This construction is at odds with other ways to conceive citizenship at both the European and national levels: the Charter of fundamental rights, but also many national constitutions, by recognizing most rights independently of legal citizenship, de facto adopt and promote a “citizenship” which is in principle inclusive and based on what is called the European social model.


Since the early 1990s, a “ghost” is haunting most of Europe: security has become the focus of much public rhetoric and policies at the local, national and EU levels, and at the same time has become the object of a constantly growing specialized scientific literature. Yet, well before these years the question of security had been studied from the point of view of criminology, the sociology of deviance and social control, the sociology of law. Sociologists and criminologists described and analyzed a shift in the political understanding and management of crime and deviance in Western democracies which was being justified in the name of “security”. Such shift may be summarized as follows: 1) “causes” of crime and deviance, whether economic, social, cultural, or (even) psychological came to be considered of little, if any, importance, in designing crime prevention or “war on crime” policies. Neither the social and economic environment, nor the minds of would be criminals need therefore to be changed: rather, policies should aim to make it more difficult to commit an illegal act, and to “incapacitate” those who commit them; 2) the attention shifted from “criminals” to “victims”, especially potential ones, i.e., the good citizens who must be defended from crime. “Victims” get center stage in dealing with the criminal question (I explored the close relationship between “victim” and the neoliberal subject in Pitch, 2010; see also Brown, 2006 and Foessel, 2010); 3) measures to deal with crime and deviance came to a) be based on risk evaluations and the profiling of potentially “dangerous” populations, with the adoption of so-called situational prevention, i.e. measures geared to diminish the risk of being criminally victimized (CCTV, enclosure of public spaces, gated communities, “zero tolerance” local policies), and b) the multiplication of criminal offenses and the increase of penalties (the literature is enormous, see for example Cohen, 1985, O’Malley, 1992, Feeley, Simon, 1994, Garland, 2001). In short, security, risk prevention and risk minimization became the new key words and “safety” and the “containment of dangerousness” replaced “justice” and “social reform” (Bailey, Shearing, 1996). This shift occurred first in the US, which has to this day the by far largest imprisoned population of Western democracies. According to Simon (2003), the crisis of the Keynesian model which occurred in the US in the mid-sixties spurred the emergence of a mode of government “through crime”, that is to say a government which used the “fear of crime” and the need for more “security” to legitimize itself and promote a “fight of crime model” of government in all relevant institutions. Others (Wacquant, 2009; De Giorgi, 2000) have spoken of the substitution of the social state by a penal state, and described the importation of this model in Europe during the 80s and 90s. The rise of the “security imperative” in public discourse and policy initiatives in most of the West has been documented and discussed widely not only by criminologists and sociologists of deviance and social control, but also by general sociologists, philosophers and political scientists (see, among others, Bauman 1999, Offe, 1999).

“Security”, in this literature, mainly means “protection from risks of criminal victimization”. In public and political discourse it is then possible to detect a significant shift in the meaning of security, as in the so-called Golden thirty years (1945-1975) security was used prevalently to signify social security, i.e. the protection from the risks of life (illness, unemployment, disability, poverty), to be provided to all citizens through proportional taxation (solidarity).


It appears, then, that in the past 40 years or so, the meaning of security in public discourse has reverted to its Hobbesian origins: protection of one’s life, freedom from threats coming from other citizens (but for a more nuanced reading of Hobbes, see Foessel, 2010).

Indeed, in the European theoretical and philosophical tradition, security and citizenship are notions which imply each other. Hobbes posed internal and external security as the justification of the creation of the State by individuals who then become “citizens”: internal security meant the monopolization of legitimate violence by the state to protect citizens from threats coming from other citizens; external protection meant the defense and inviolability of state borders. State, territory, nation: the extension of sovereign power to a territory produced together the nation and the “people”. Security here means not only protection of individual citizens but also protection of a political community in a given territory from threats coming from the outside.


The two types of security were to be managed by different agencies: internal security was (mainly) the task of the police, external security was (mainly) the task of the army. Thus criminals and enemies were clearly separated. These two types of security were also the object of study of different disciplines: criminologists and sociologists studied the first, international affairs scholars, security experts and security agencies studied the second.


The end of the Cold War marked a significant change for the study and management of external security. External security itself came to be defined and constructed in a different way, as territorial borders increasingly became porous and states’ sovereignty weakened through what is commonly called globalization. International terrorism and transnational organized crime contributed to the blurring of the distinction between criminals and enemies (I discussed this blurring in Pitch, 2010). As Bigo (2005) notes, security agencies started merging questions of policing and of defense. He also contends that this development was tied in with a discursive shift from threats of identifiable enemies to notions of risks, thus (I add) paralleling the similar discursive shift which occurred in criminology (see on this Cohen 1985, Garland, 2001).


But within security studies a new, critical and anti-realistic, approach emerged in the 90s, whereby “security” came to be considered a “speech act” by which policy questions are transformed into existential issues (Buzan, Waever, de Wilde, 1998). Within this approach, questions of security are seen not as something given, but as something constructed by political elites, which in this way transfer issues from normal, and democratic, political debate to an emergency register where it is the executive that is empowered to take the necessary decisions.


Critical security studies and critical criminology and sociology thus converge in the view that contemporary security issues have become dominant in political discourse and policy decisions not because threats have multiplied and become more serious, but on account of social, economic, political and policy changes which may be summarized in the emergence and hegemony of a neoliberal political rationality and mode of government (among many others, see Brown, 2006, Dardot, Laval 2009). To summarize a complex series of arguments: socialized risks have been individualized and privatized, the responsibility for taking and avoiding them shifted from the State to the individual, the uncertainty and insecurity deriving from increased unemployment, precarious jobs and the erosion of welfare provisions has been deflected against “criminals”, terrorists, migrants and asylum seekers…


Security and citizenship are connected, as I said, both from a philosophical point of view (Hobbes), and a sociological and empirical one. Citizenship is a legal status, signifying membership in a political community (see Costa, 2005), from which a number of rights and duties derive. In the second half of the last century, citizenship has come to mean that status which implies the entitlement to and actual enjoyment of civil, political and social rights (Marshall, 1950). In principle exclusionary (as that status which separates citizens from non citizens), citizenship in the Marshall sense of the term has an inclusive and expansionist meaning. Indeed, as I said, the long and rigid post Second World War constitutions of much continental Europe, recognizing a number of fundamental rights to persons, rather than to citizens, implicitly adopt and construct an inclusive and enlarged type of citizenship. The same may be said of the various international human rights declarations, pacts, and agreements, the European Charter of fundamental rights included.
Thus, security in its social sense and citizenship in its (more) inclusive sense appear to stand (and, perhaps, perish) together.


Security politics in the EU
While it was mainly criminologists and sociologists who studied the rise of the “fear of crime” model of government at the national and local levels (the literature is enormous, but to cite just a few, see: Body Gendrot 2000, Crawford 1998, Gautron 2006, Robert 1999, Castel 2003, Pavarini 2006, Pitch 2000 and 2001, Simon, 2003), the EU politics of security have been prevalently studied within the new critical security studies approach I mentioned. That is perhaps why there is as yet no comprehensive analysis that embraces all three levels of government, while it may be supposed that they are closely connected. The EU politics of security have been mainly studied in the context of immigration and asylum seeking from third countries, but, as we shall see, they actually concern also EU citizens.


What it is called the “securitization” of immigration within EU politics precedes both the end of the Cold War and 9/11. As Huysmans says (2006), “In the European integration process an internal security field that connects issues of border control, terrorism, drugs, organized crime and asylum seeking was developed since the mid80s and gained extra momentum in the 1990s” (p. 1). It may seem a paradox that security measures and security rhetorics became very relevant in the EU at the time when a “territorialized enemy” (Bigo, 2006) had disappeared and a space of freedom of movement for EU citizens (and the virtual disappearance of national borders) was being instituted through the Schengen agreements (1985). On the one hand, especially for those scholars who focus on the workings of security agencies (see, for example, Bigo, 2005, 2006) this securitization process may be attributed, at least in part, precisely to the bureaucrats and security experts’ need to re-orient and redefine their role in a changed context. On the other hand, this process may be seen as consistent with and functional to a neoliberal political rationality, whereby security in the EU “is directly related to the promotion of mobility and circulation of populations, goods and services” (van Munster, 2009, p. 98). Rather than being in contradiction, then, more freedom of movement for EU citizens, and increased restrictions for third country citizens respond to a “liberal notion of security”, according to which social control is better achieved through administrative measures and regulations than by outright legal prohibitions. Indeed, as van Munster shows, while the mobility of EU citizens is promoted, the mobility of migrants “by effect of their risk class membership, is channeled through technologies of security which seek to render them increasingly immobile through preventing them from moving or, in case they move, by restricting and channeling their movement through technologies of risk management” (p. 98; the parallel with what has happened at the local and national levels is striking: see Lianos, Douglas, 2000). Risk and risk management, via the construction of potentially “dangerous populations”, then, are at the core of EU security politics just as they are at the core of those national and local criminal justice changes criminologists and sociologists have been pointing at in the last 30 years.


The Schengen agreements at one and the same time made it easier for EU nationals to move through Europe and much more difficult for third country nationals to enter into and move through this space. In 1990 the Convention Applying the Schengen agreements directly connected immigration with terrorism and transnational crime, placing the regulation of immigration in an institutional framework that dealt with the protection of internal security. Indeed, while Schengen 1 was negotiated between and drafted by transport and foreign affairs officials, Schengen 2 was drafted by internal security professionals. In the 1985 agreements, security was not central, though it already provided a link between free movement and security concerns. After 9/11 the transfer of the security connotations of terrorism to the area of migration became explicit (cf.. Arts. 16 and 17 of the European Council Common Position on Combating Terrorism, December 2001). Migrants and asylum seekers shifted from being framed as a humanitarian or economic issue to being framed as a security issue, thus paralleling an analogous shift occurring at the national and local levels.


Though arguably migrants and asylum seekers constitute the main population targeted by EU security politics, they are not the only one. The Schengen agreements and subsequent policy documents contemplate restrictions legitimated by security concerns also for EU nationals. Such restrictions may be applied by States when they think their security is threatened. How and why states decide to apply them is not being monitored, so these decisions are discretionary. Potential “troublemakers” may be stopped from crossing borders, and what constitutes “troublemaking” is an evaluation left to each country on the basis of “suspicion” and risk calculations, thus outside of any clear legal standards. A Security Handbook for the use of police at international events has also been created, on the same principles, and permanent “risk analysis” must be carried out by each national agency involved. The EU Council Recommendation of April 22 1996 calls for an overall assessment of the potential for disorder and the standardization of intelligence about suspected groups of troublemakers. Another EU Council Recommendation advocates the collection, analysis and exchange of information on all sizeable groups that may pose a threat to law, order and security when travelling to another member state to participate in a meeting attended by large numbers of persons from more than one Member State (1997) (Apap, Carrera, 2004). Policies developed to fight terrorism and illegal immigration are thus applied to EU citizens as well, by labeling them “unwanted”, “unwelcome”, “suspect”. What is being restricted in this case is not only freedom of movement, but also other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression, since people are classified “suspect” on the basis of their political ideas and the assumption that they will want to express them. Thus, approaches, languages and techniques developed in the name of security against terrorism, organized crime and illegal immigration spill over and curtail fundamental rights of, also, EU citizens.


But there is another “at risk” population of EU nationals whose citizenship rights may be curtailed in the name of security. It is that composed of so-called “football hooligans”. No definition of hooliganism has been provided by policies: “hooligans’” stigmatization, according to Tsoukala (2009) is accompanied by what she calls “a splintered definitional process that mirrors the evolving national and international security stakes” (p. 6), so that we can observe significant interactions between the security field as a whole and the counter-hooliganism policies at the European, state, and local levels (I have discussed the Italian case in Pitch, 2013). Since the tragedy at the Heysel stadium in 1985, situational prevention measures, centered on the segregation and surveillance of football spectators, has extended in terms of time (before and after games), space (places outside the football stadium) and targeted populations (potential troublemakers). Increased punishments and repressive administration measures (preventive detention included) are disposed for acts which would not be considered a crime or a threat outside a sporting event (Tsoukala, 2009). National and international football bans are imposed. The EU council recommendations I cited above apply to football and other sports’ spectators as well as potential protesters. Indeed, the EU Council (2001) explicitly puts football hooliganism and political demonstrations together as “threats to urban security”.


The risk of security politics
The criminological and sociological literature studying security politics and policies at the national and local levels, and the security studies analyzing these politics and policies at the EU level converge on the interpretation of their consequences. Not only they appear to be ineffective in reassuring the supposedly fearful population they purport to protect: they actually tend to escalate, by reproducing insecurity through “emergency” discourses which often use the language of war (on drugs, illegal immigration, terrorism, organized crime) and promising an impossible total security (Castel, 2003). The discursive register of security dictates the solution to the issues it is applied to: in other words, it is the solution which constructs the problem, as the case of immigration shows. Here we may note a very good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the shift of immigration from being seen as a humanitarian and economic problem to a security issue implies more restrictive immigration policies which on their turn push migrants towards illegality, plus reinforcing EU nationals’ diffidence towards them.


The impact of these policies (and of the discourses justifying them) on the construction and interpretation of citizenship is twofold. On the one hand, they make it more difficult to become a EU national for migrants from third countries and on the other they restrict the very meaning of citizenship, by dividing the “good” citizens from the “bad” and curtailing the enjoyment of fundamental rights these last are entitled to on very fragile bases, i.e., suspicion and risk. These policies and accompanying discourses legitimize an “us” versus “them” political and cultural climate and a citizenship constructed through and by fear. As I said, citizenship is a status which is always in some measure exclusionary. But if we confront the way in which citizenship is constructed through security politics and discourses and the way it is conceived in the European Charter of fundamental rights (18-12-2000), we see two very different models. In the Charter, civil and social rights are due to persons, not citizens, and civil and social rights are posed as indivisible. This means that the Charter disposes that at the heart of the European project should lie the European social model, but, even more importantly for what I am trying to say here, it says that an European “people”, or political community, should be an effect, rather than a pre-requisite of a European constitution. In the charter, then, a European political community is not supposed to be already existing and just in need of protection to preserve its integrity and “purity”. Politics and rhetoric of security, on the other hand, produce and support a vision of an already given and culturally homogeneous political community, to be defended from internal and especially external threats (as Feeley and Simon, 1994, say about local communities: “communities… construct their boundaries around concerns and anxieties about crime… ’defensive exclusivity’ can become a powerful dynamic in the formation and sustenance of communal existence, such that communities may increasingly come together less for what they share in common and more for what they fear”, p. 260). Migrants are indeed constructed as a security threat not only because they are seen as potential criminals and terrorists, but also because they are supposed to contaminate a (fictitious) common cultural identity. The two citizenship models are in sharp contrast: and on the eve of difficult European elections, where many predict a sharp rise in xenophobic and nationalist votes, the inclusive one is at great risk.


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Tamar Pitch | résidente à l’IEA de Nantes

Tamar Pitch est professeur à la faculté de droit de l’université de Pérouse. Diplômée de l’université de Florence et de l’université du Connecticut, elle a été lauréate d’une bourse Fulbright et d’une bourse de la Fondation Wolfson. Ses livres, articles et recherches portent sur le crime et la justice pénale, la déviance et le contrôle social, le droit et la problématique du genre, les droits de l’homme, les questions d’égalité et de discrimination.


01/10/2013 - 31/12/2013