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BORDERLINES is a Research Group led by Carolyn Moser under the Minerva Fast Track scheme of the Max Planck Society (2019–2022). It explores novel security policy trends in Europe from an interdisciplinary perspective.



The design and implementation of security policies across Europe have changed over the last years. As a result, many security policy ‘borderlines’ have been redrawn—at a conceptual, operational, spatial and institutional level. The new delimitations, however, pose a range of governance challenges.

Against this backdrop, the borderlines project seeks to reveal the new 'borderlines' of European security with a view to unraveling the underlying novel governance trends of security-related policies and instruments at the European level. This comprehensive governance investigation rests on an interdisciplinary research design, combining legal analysis with political science research tools.

Photo credit: Dean Hochmann. License: CC BY 2.0

Starting point

In the last few years, the design and implementation of security policies across Europe have drastically changed. Key in the recent security paradigm shift is a new, much broader threat perception caused by the imbrication of security spheres in a globalized world: Instability or unrest in faraway places can engender migration flows, fuel piracy or trigger religious radicalization, all of which can eventually have negative security repercussions on Europe. A major cause of the recent security turn is thus the progressive erosion of the previously clear line between domestic and foreign security issues. The internal and external aspects of border control or cyber governance, for instance, are interlaced—from a conceptual and spatial as well as from an operational and institutional viewpoint.

European States have thus increasingly taken a transboundary approach to cope with more and more interwoven security realities, abandoning the internal–external distinction when designing and implementing security policies. This transboundary approach is often based on the (mostly) informal merger of capacities at the European level. As a matter of fact, we have in recent years witnessed an upsurge in delegation of formerly nationally managed security functions—e.g. border control, law enforcement data management, cyber defence—to joint European structures.

Key issue & salience

These novel governance trends regarding European security policies, however, challenge traditional categories of ‘borders’. Many of the recent security policy measures sit uneasy between the well-established and distinct categories of prevention and repression, and can moreover not easily be assigned to law enforcement or external security action. There is thus operational convergence going hand in hand with a conceptual amalgamation, perfectly illustrated by the coordination and cooperation of Frontex, the EU border management agency, and the EU naval operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the territorial scope of security policies has become blurry as their spatial projection has increased: The Sahel region has, for instance, become a major zone of European activities regarding migration management, border control and terrorism prevention. But what does this spatial reach imply for international (human rights) obligations? Many plaintiffs at home and abroad will be left without redress options given the informal nature of measures or decisions taken against them. Indeed, while the predominantly informal merger of capacities at the European level offers large efficiency gains to States, it risks eroding governance and rule of law standards. The new European security policy landscape hence thus poses a range of legal and institutional challenges.

Objective & research design

The objective of borderlines is to unravel the novel governance trends common across different EU security-related policies and instruments. The project will address several key aspects regarding the formulation and implementation of European security policies. A particular analytical focus of Borderlines will be on the scrutiny of conceptual, operational, spatial and institutional changes made in response to the internal–external security nexus.

To achieve this objectives, the borderlines project employs an interdisciplinary approach: next to an in-depth study of legal sources, the analysis draws on empirical data (in particular interviews). It thus breaks new ground by combining tools of legal scholarship with insights from political science research—both in analytical and conceptual terms.