21st Oct 2016

France wants to create new EU migration post

  • Frontex says it needs more money in order to get the new programme up and running (Photo: Frontex)

France wants a new European coordinator to ensure member states follow through more rapidly on their asylum and border control commitments.

A French official close to the issue said the coordinator is needed because the EU’s home affairs portfolio, currently headed by Cecilia Malmstrom, is too broad.

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The proposal follows incoming EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s announcement over the summer that he would create a new commissioner post with “special responsibility for migration”.

Juncker is expected to announce the commission portfolios and how he intends to organise the work of the next European Commission next week.

The coordinator post is part of a larger French-led EU plan on immigration briefly outlined by French interior minister Bernad Cazeneuve in Brussels on Monday (1 September).

Cazeneuve, speaking alongside Malmstrom, told reporters member states need to regain control of the EU’s external borders, better implement asylum procedures, and step up efforts to dismantle human smuggling networks.

“We need in each of our member states a strategy in order to welcome those who must be granted asylum.”

Before his stop in Brussels, the French politician visited Rome, London, Barcelona and Berlin to shore up support. Paris has indicated that Italy, Spain, the UK and Germany broadly back the plan.

Cazeneuve's meeting with Malmstrom did not touch upon the coordinator post, according to sources familiar with the discussion.

The French strategy includes reinforcing the borders of the Union, setting up better administrative treatment for asylum seekers, dispersing asylum seekers more broadly across hosting member states, and creating a more efficient return policy.

The idea is also to make sure people arriving in the EU seeking asylum are properly identified from the start. With some 100,000 people having crossed the Mediterranean to reach the Europe since the beginning of the year, the proposal also involves reaching out to transit countries like Egypt and Tunisia to better contain the flows.

The French proposed their plan, in part, because of the rise of migrant numbers crossing into the EU via the Mediterranean and its own internal issues dealing with camps of stranded refugees in the port city of Calais.

Paris also wants member states to commit assets to Frontex plus, an EU-coordinated migration operation in the Mediterranean set for launch in November. Member states are expected to contribute air and maritime assets.

“We already heard from France and other countries they are willing to contribute but for the moment we have no specific details we can give,” said Malmstrom’s spokesperson.

Frontex plus set to be renamed Operation Triton

Triton, the mythological Greek god and messenger of the sea, has been proposed as a new name to replace Frontex plus.

To get it up and running, the Warsaw-based EU border agency, says it needs more money on top of its annual €89.1 million budget (a €4.8 million decrease compared to 2013).

The agency is finalising discussions Italy, which has been running its owns humanitarian programme to deal with the 1000s of migrants coming to its shores, on what is needed to launch the EU operation.

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