Friday

27th Nov 2020

Leaders impose June deadline for EU border force

  • Asylum seekers on Greek coast in October (Photo: CAFOD Photo Library)

A plan to create an European border and coast guard system was backed by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday (17 December).

Despite outstanding issues over national sovereignty, leaders agreed to have the Council, representing member states, adopt its legislative position before the end of June next year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Above all, we are failing to protect our external borders. That is why leaders have decided to speed up on all these issues," the EU Council chief Donald Tusk told reporters.

First announced by the European Commission earlier this week, the proposal is part of a larger border package designed to curb the inflow of people seeking asylum in the EU.

Some 1.2 million asylum seekers arrived in the EU since the start of the year, representing a 90 percent increase compared to 2014.

Most landed on the Greek islands in the Aegean after disembarking from Turkey. From there, they head to Macedonia and onward to mainland EU.

Bad weather has helped stem the flow of refugees since the start of November.

The new border agency would be able to draw from a pool of 1,500 guards. The European commission would be entitled to dispatch the guards without the consent of the nation state if required.

The measure, described by one EU official as "the invasion clause," is unlikely to garner broad support among the 28 capitals.

But leaders on Thursday wanted to send a strong political signal, noting that regaining control over external borders is indispensable in safeguarding the "integrity" of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel said there is now an awareness that preserving Schengen and controlling migratory flows are interlinked.

Germany, in mid-September, had introduced internal border checks amid large numbers of asylum seekers transiting through Austria. Similar moves were made by the Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, and Slovakia.

Fears are mounting that more internal border controls would eventually lead to Schengen's collapse unless the external borders are better managed.

Turkey is seen as a key component.

In late November, the EU and Turkey agreed a €3 billion deal in an effort improve refugee camp conditions in Turkey and help with integration efforts of Syrians in Turkish society.

The hope among EU leaders is that Syrians and others in Turkey would have less incentive to apply for international protection in the EU.

Turkey, for its part, wants the EU states to pay up, hasten visa free liberalisation for Turks, resume EU membership talks, and start resettling UN designated refugees from Turkey to EU states.

But resettlement of refugees is a tricky issue in the EU.

A similar scheme had been launched by the European Commission over the summer to resettle some 20,000 over two years on a voluntary basis but they are few takers. Only around 600 have so far been resettled.

The commission then asked member states earlier this week to also to take in refugees from Turkey on the condition that the flow of people into Europe from Turkey is reduced.

Asked by reporters if the latest resettlement plan with Turkey is feasible, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said "it will be done".

Tusk responded in kind: "It will be done for sure."

EU leaders also remain unclear if the bulk of the €3 billion will come from the EU budget or national coffers.

A meeting of EU ambassadors has been asked to "rapidly conclude its work on how to mobilise the €3 billion."

Greece, for its, part wants Turkey to apply bilateral readmission agreements for the return of non-refugees from places like Pakistan, Iran, and Morocco.

Opinion

Central EU border security is necessary evil

If the EU gets a grip of its borders, it will help not just Europe, but also those refugees in dire need who would receive better help in a more structured environment.

Video

Rivera joins Liberals for EU pre-summit meeting

Before any EU summit in Brussels, political families come together to prepare talks. This time round Albert Rivera, leader of Ciudadanos, Spain, joined the Liberals.

EU migration system relies on despots, Schäuble says

German parliament president Wolfgang Schäuble outlined a vision on migration that included possibly sending people to "facilities outside Europe" while at the same time acknowledging that the EU is reliant on "dubious powers and regimes".

News in Brief

  1. Brexit talks pick up pace once more
  2. MEPs back US trade detente
  3. Iran diplomat to stand trial in Belgium over 'France bomb plot'
  4. Trump says he'll leave if Biden wins Electoral College vote
  5. EU Parliament: Polish abortion ban risks womens' lives
  6. UN experts warn against racial profiling
  7. EU auditors raise red flag over maritime protection
  8. Four students charged in France's beheading case

EU demands answers on Croat border attacks against migrants

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to send her officials to Croatia sometime this month to make sure authorities there are complying with fundamental rights following numerous allegations of violence against migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.

EU watchdog launches probe on Croat border violence

The European Ombudsman is launching a case into the lack of proper oversight by the European Commission when it comes to how fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are allegedly being violated by Croat border police.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations
  2. Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief
  3. Poland and Hungary say rule-of-law link needs treaty change
  4. Portuguese presidency to focus on social rights and India
  5. The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE
  6. Poland hammered on women's rights in EU debate
  7. EU 'front-line' states want clearer migration rules
  8. Von der Leyen tells Poland and Hungary to go to court

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us