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17th Feb 2019

EU border control plan faces resistance

  • Frontex, the EU's border agency is helping Greece to register newly arrived migrants (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (14 December) gave a lukewarm reception to EU Commission plans for a new EU border and coast guard force.

The bloc’s executive is to propose, on Tuesday, that the border force be deployed on EU external borders if frontline member states fail to protect the EU boundary.

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EU leaders will, at a summit on Thursday, agree to “rapidly” examine the plan, according to the latest draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver.

The most controversial part of the proposal is that the force can be deployed even if the target member state doesn’t want it. The commission says deployment can only be blocked if they gather enough support - two thirds of EU Council votes - to form a “reversed qualified majority.”

Luxembourg foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, echoed EU Council chief, Donald Tusk, in saying that uncontrolled migration has the potential to undermine EU free movement in the so called Schengen zone.

“Tusk is right, if we don’t protect our external borders, Schengen will fail,” Asselborn said on Monday.

“The question is how to deal with the sensitivity of member states, such as Italy or Greece. Does it [deployment] happen upon request or can it be triggered if Frontex [the EU border control agency] sees danger on the external border?”, he added.

“Every country, which is on the external border and does not want to build a fence, needs to accept a European mechanism,” he said, alluding to Greece, which has waved through more than 700,000 asylum seekers en route to Germany and which put up resistance to EU intervention.

Sovereignty

But for their part, outspoken politicians from eastern Europe say the commission proposal is “undemocratic” and “incompatible” with national sovereignty.

Polish foreign affairs minister Witold Waszczykowski said on Monday he's “surprised” by it. He said the force would be "undemocratic, not managed by member states, accountable to I don't know whom."

Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjarto also sounded sceptical.

“I don’t think it would be right,” he said, on letting EU officials decide when to trigger deployment.

“Forcing help on member states is incompatible with border protection being part of national sovereignty,” he told press in Brussels.

“We have to insist on protecting borders being part of national sovereignty,” he said, adding that Greece should ask for help, rather then being forced to accept EU assistance.

“It should not be done based on diktats, but based on bilateral or multilateral help from its partners,” Szijjarto said.

Hungary

He noted that Hungary did ask for help on protecting its southern border and now has Polish, Slovakian and Czech personnel helping out.

He also said the planned pool of border guards of around 2,000 is not sufficient to protect the EU external border.

“With this many guards, you can’t even protect 520 kilometers of land border, even if you have a fence. You need thousands to protect thousands of kilometers of sea border,” he said, referring to Hungary’s 520-km southern border with Serbia and Croatia, where it built a razor wire fence.

EU plans fully-fledged external border force

The EU Commission will propose a reinforced border and coast guard next week to strengthen the bloc's external border controls. It could be deployed to a member state without invitation.

New EU border force: 'right to intervene'

New EU border force, to be proposed Tuesday, would have “right to intervene” if member states fail to protect external boundaries, a draft text, seen by EUobserver, says.

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