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6th Dec 2019

EU states should control new border force, MEPs say

  • The new EU border guard is set to be operational by the summer (Photo: Frontex)

Deployment of the EU's new border force should be controlled by member states, not by the European Commission, an MEP's report discussed in parliament on Monday (11 April) has concluded.

Artis Pabriks, rapporteur on the European Border and Coast Guard proposal, said in his report that the right to intervene should be decided by the Council, which represents member states, “to further emphasise the sovereignty”.

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The European Commission had initially proposed last December that it should control interventions by the new border force.

EU leaders hope that the new border force will be operational by the summer, and will eventually replace the current Warsaw-based border agency, Frontex.

It would have the right to intervene in emergencies if a member state persistently failed to protect the bloc’s external boundaries, if national action is lacking and if there is a threat to the Schengen area as a whole.

In a controversial aspect of the proposal, the border force could also be deployed even if the member state concerned rejected intervention.

Pabriks, a Latvian centre-right MEP, sided with member states in his draft report.

“Given the sensitivity of the matter, which is clearly linked to the sovereignty of the EU member states, it should be the council and not the commission which takes such a decision,” his report said.

If the member state does not comply with the council’s decision, reintroducing border controls in neighbouring member states “might be necessary” to protect the Schengen area.

The draft report says: “The Council may as a last resort, to protect the common interests within the area without internal border control and taking into account the principles of proportionality and necessity, recommend that one or more member states decide to reintroduce border control at all or specific parts of their internal borders for a period of up to six months.”

That period may be extended no more than three times.

MEPs in the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee generally welcomed his ideas, but emphasised the need for clear areas of responsibility and accountability between the new EU border agency and the member state concerned when European border guards “intervene”.

Peter Niedermuller, the shadow rapporteur for the socialist group in the EU assembly, said: “Liability and accountability for the action of the agency together with member state are blurred in many areas, like the cases of return, fundamental rights, data protection, relation with third countries.”

“Further clarification is needed,” he added, saying the commission's proposal is not at all clear on who is responsible, for what, when and where.

Some MEPs also criticised the idea of a European “return” office within the new agency that would be tasked with sending back illegal migrants. They said the border agency’s role as guardian of the external borders should not be mixed up with asylum policy.

A vote is planned in the committee on 24 May. Negotiations among member states and the EU parliament will then begin.

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