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New Security for America, via Europe

By Arjen Boin & Bengt Sundelius

The Obama administration's creation of a new Cyber Czar position is the latest indication that a new emphasis on societal security is taking the place of America's old narrow-minded focus on terrorism. The Czar position breaks down the artificial divide between national security and homeland security, effectively invalidating a major anti-terrorism paradigm dominant since 9/11. Combined with a renewed emphasis on dealing with climate threats, the new position indicates a new direction for the U.S. - and not a day too soon. Now it's time to partner with Europe to continue that progress.

We are witnessing the rise of transboundary threats and crises. Threats such as cyberterrorism, financial implosions, pandemics, and climate change have the potential to overwhelm our response systems. As infrastructures and industries become increasingly interwoven and therefore more complex, the risk of societal breakdown looms large.

Nations can no longer deal with these threats alone. The unconventional and transnational nature of crises demands a multilateral response. It requires the capacity to quickly combine and allocate resources, share expertise, information and disaster logistics, and synchronize crisis decision-making. It demands a synchronized approach among international partners.

The next step is to ramp up and reinvent the transatlantic partnership with the European Union. The Europeans share the same dire threat outlook as their continental quest for integration makes them more vulnerable to both natural and man-made shocks.

The EU has much to offer as a partner. Its 27 member states with 500 million people have built vast capacity to deliver aid abroad and assist overwhelmed countries. It has formulated policies to enhance protection of European citizens against contaminated food, floods and epidemics. The EU capital of Brussels has crisis rooms, early warning systems, training programs, risk assessments and emergency funds. There is Schengen - a visa-free space within Europe, guarded by a common border patrol -- and Europol - Europe's collaborative police force. The EU is no longer a mere economic community - it is on its way to becoming a weighty actor when it comes to protecting its citizens.

There is more to come. The EU Commission is streamlining its many security institutions and connecting them with the security and response systems of the member states. Many member states have moved in the same direction, adapting their response and recovery systems in the face of new threats.

The U.S. should exploit this common ground with the EU. The next high-level strategy meeting between the U.S. and the EU in the fall provides an excellent opportunity. The U.S. should push for a declaration of Transatlantic Solidarity, which can serve as a foundation for more concrete crisis management collaboration.

The U.S. and Europe share a history of effective crisis management. Future crises will require deepened collaboration and likely some joint response and recovery capacity. The time has come to reinvent the long-standing partnership that has enhanced prosperity and security on both sides of the Atlantic.


Arjen Boin is a professor at the Public Administration Institute of Louisiana State University; Bengt Sundelius is a professor at the Swedish National Defence College and Uppsala University.

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.

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