ROME — Russian saber-rattling in Eastern Europe, homegrown Islamic State fighters in Scandinavia and human traffickers sending thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Italy are three very different problems facing Europe, but they have produced one result — a push to strengthen borders through increased homeland security spending.
Starting in Italy, the problem of human trafficking has grown to the extent that Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said April 21 he was pushing for international backing for airstrikes on the boats used by Libya-based traffickers.
The European Union has also supported the idea, following the drowning of about 800 mainly African migrants on April 19 when the fishing boat they were using to sail from Libya to Italy capsized.
The incident increased the number of migrants drowned this year while sailing rickety boats and overloaded dinghies to more than 1,500 and prompted urgent calls for a crackdown on the traffickers who supply the boats in lawless Libya.
European politicians have argued that if because Europe was able to tackle Somali pirates, it can repeat that success against the traffickers. Italy reportedly sent special operations teams to Albania in the 1990s to scuttle ships used by people traffickers, and it already has Navy ships monitoring Islamic State activity in Libya.
But the 1990s operation took place with the authorization of the Albanian government, while in Libya today two governments are vying for control.
Laura Boldrini, the president of the lower house of the Italian Parliament, warned that any bombing would need Libya's permission. "And who in Libya would you ask?" she said.
Poland, meanwhile, is bolstering its border surveillance and control capabilities in response to Russia's intervention in neighboring Ukraine and its increased military activities in Eastern Europe.
Poland's border with Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, a 15,100-square-kilometer (5,800 square mile) territory on the Baltic Sea shore with no land connection to the rest of Russia, is undergoing a major upgrade designed to prevent illegal entryies.
In its latest efforts, Warsaw is looking at lessons learned in Ukraine, where the border was crossed by Russian troops. NATO has confirmed seeing Russian military equipment and Russian combat troops cross into Ukrainian territory to support pro-Moscow separatists, although Russia's Defense Ministry denied deploying troops to eastern Ukraine.
The Polish government has decided to upgrade its border facilities in the country's northeast, where Poland and Russia share a 200-kilometer border. As part of the program, Poland's Border Guard (Straz Graniczna) is currently setting up six new 24-hour watchtowers fitted with a height of between 35 and 50 meters high and fitted with and high-tech surveillance and control equipment.
"Presently, we are carrying out tests of the equipment, which is installed on the watchtowers. We plan to launch them by June this year," Miroslawa Aleksandrowicz, the spokesperson for the Border Guard in the country's Warmian-Masurian region, told local newsweekly PAP.
Over the past years, Russia has been further expanded ing its military presence in Kaliningrad, and Polish officials have blasted Moscow for locating tactical ballistic missiles in the exclave. In 2013, Russian daily Izvestia reported that Russia's military had deployed Iskander-M missiles to Kaliningrad in close proximity of the border with Poland.
The country's capital of Warsaw is located some 400 kilometers from Kaliningrad, which is within less than the missile's strike range.
In neighboring Lithuania, which also borders with Kaliningrad, Russia's increased military activity in Eastern Europe is raising similar fears.
In Scandinavia, the threat that is prompting large increases in domestic intelligence spending comes not from outside the borders, but within.
The latest intelligence from Nordic military and homeland security agencies suggests that between 300 and 500 men and women, consisting of both Muslim immigrants and radicalized citizens, have left the region to join and fight with the Islamic State group ISIS since 2014. Around 80 "combatants" holding either citizenship or residency in a Nordic country are known to have been killed in action from 2014-2015.
"The risks are very real; all Nordic states are cooperating more to protect our homeland security and prevent the radicalization of immigrants in our societies. All Nordic governments are spending more on anti-terrorism and tightening residency laws," said Päivi Räsänen, Finland's interior minister.
The threat of homegrown terror became real in February when an attack by jihadists in Copenhagen with automatic weapons left a civilian dead and three police officers wounded.
In part inspired by the threat from Muslim terror, the funding of Finland's national and military intelligence forces has doubled in 10 years, rising from $25 million in 2005 to around $50 million in 2015, while Sweden's central counterterrorism agency has seen its budget rise from $91 million in 2008 to $108 million in 2015. The country's Military Intelligence and Security Service and Intelligence agency have seen a 30 percent increase in their budgets since 2004. Combined, both agencies will receive $165 million in 2015.
Sweden's total homeland security budget for 2015, including equipment procurement, training and money directed at specialist anti-terrorism police units, is expected to reach $400 million in 2015. This figure is 38 percent higher than in 2004.
In Norway, the central Police Security Service's budget has increased this year by 11 percent to $70 million, while the Military Defense Intelligence Agency's budget will rise by 10 percent to $160 million.
Denmark, which will increase its homeland security budget by 25 percent to $200 million in 2015-2019, plans to take the lead regionally in introducing a series of restrictive laws to curb Islamic radicalism both in Danish society and within the country's expanding prison network.
The measures will enhance the country's ability to gather and analyze information about terror planning abroad while ensuring that the intelligence services are able and equipped to monitor radicalized "Danes" who travel abroad to fight for the Islamic State groupISIS and other extremist groups.
Jaroslaw Adamowski in Warsaw and Gerard O'Dwyer in Helsinki contributed to this report.