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28th Nov 2021

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

  • Fabrice Leggeri is under intense scrutiny (Photo: Frontex)

The head of the European border control agency, Fabrice Leggeri, has said he welcomes European Parliament scrutiny of the under-fire Warsaw-based institution.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Robert Schuman Foundation in Paris on Thursday (25 February), Leggeri suggested such a probe should have already been launched.

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"I salute the creation of this scrutiny group, and I think it is largely about time," he said in French, noting that similar probes already exist for the EU's police agency Europol.

"There is one for Europol, there is one for Schengen, and there was not one for the European corps which will have 10,000 guards," he said.

MEPs in the European Parliament civil liberties committee earlier this week held their first meeting in the so-called Frontex Scrutiny Working Group.

The group was set up following allegations Frontex had been involved in the illegal pushbacks of migrants in the Aegean sea between Greece and Turkey.

Composed of some 14 MEPs from across the political spectrum, the group plans to gather evidence against the agency when it comes to possible violations of fundamental rights.

"There will be recommendations and they are welcomed," he said, claiming the agency will be cleared of any wrong-doing.

The launch of the MEP probe follows a separate investigation.

Last December, the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf had raided Frontex, on issues dealing with management and human resources.

That too implicates Leggeri, as well as his chief of staff, amid calls by MEPs for his resignation.

But Leggeri appeared unconcerned with Olaf.

"Investigations like Olaf are investigations that happen," he said.

He has also been under fire for failing to hire some 40 fundamental right monitors by the end of last year, as required. The issue has riled the European Commission.

"We are not perfect," noted Leggeri of the delays.

European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, speaking at the same event, also weighed in.

"All these questions of transition are questions of management that need to be resolved," he said of the agency.

"The director has the executive responsibility to do it and he is responsible before the management board," said Schinas.

But Schinas also drew a line.

He said he rejected any attempts to weaken the agency "at a moment we need it the most."

Exclusive

EU anti-fraud office launches probe into Frontex

EUobserver was tipped off about the investigation by an anonymous source, who said Olaf had raided the offices of Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri and his chef de cabinet in early December given alleged misconduct.

Exclusive

Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw

The European Border and Coast Guard Day is held every May. The event includes movies, football and volleyball matches between Frontex and national border guards, shooting competitions and exercises to detect smugglers.

EU Parliament to hold Frontex probe behind closed doors

Earlier this month the European Parliament set up a permanent probe into the EU's border agency Frontex. Now that the Frontex boss is set for his first grilling, MEPs have decided to keep the public in the dark.

EU Commission cannot hold Frontex to account

MEPs probing the EU's border agency Frontex cross-examined the agency's director. They also spoke to EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who made it clear she had little sway over the agency.

Analysis

Lack of legal clarity on EU 'pushbacks' of migrants at sea

Frontex is invoking EU interception rules, plus a European Court of Human Rights case against Spain, as precedents to allow authorities to turn back migrants in boats in the Aegean Sea. But legal analysis by the EU Commission says otherwise.

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