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24th Aug 2019

MEPs question EU border guard proposal

  • The EU'S border guard would have the right to intervene in member states in emergency situations (Photo: euoparl.europa.eu)

Leftist and Green MEPs have criticised proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, arguing that it would not be clear who was responsible for protecting rights.

German Green MEP Ska Keller told the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposal on Monday (29 February) that it would give EU border agency Frontex “unprecedented levels” of power to intervene, without the necessary safeguards or public oversight.

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“Who is the one in charge, who is responsible for example for fundamental rights violations? It is a problem when the competences of Frontex are mixed up with those of member states, when equipment is co-owned,” she said.

Under the European Commission proposal, a beefed-up Frontex would be able to intervene in a member state – even against that country’s will – if the passport-free Schengen area was deemed to be at risk.

The proposal is the latest attempt by the commission to control the bloc's external borders in the face of many thousands of migrants coming from the Middle East.

The Dutch presidency of the EU Council wants an agreement between member states and the European Parliament on the border guard proposal by the end of July, and the aim is to have the new agency operating in the summer.

Members of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee questioned Matthias Ruete, who heads the commission's migration and home affairs directorate, on the deadline and expressed the need for better protection of fundamental rights.

Keller highlighted that the commission had not carried out an impact assessment and questioned why the commission was in such a hurry.

Several other MEPs joined her in questioning the issue of legal responsibility in case of fundamental rights violations.

Ruete said the EU was facing an existential crisis, that is why the proposal needs to move as fast as possible.

“There is enormous pressure also from our citizens to see if we can move for a more collective management of external borders,” he said, adding that the proposal reflected the new political challenges of the EU.

He highlighted that the member state where the intervention would take place needed to agree to a joint operational plan, and there was no way the commission could force that country to cooperate.

“We can take the member state to court, that's all,” he added.

Reute stressed the intervention was based on a common decision.

The parliamentary committee is expected to vote on the proposal, for which Latvian MEP Artis Pabriks rapporteur is responsible, in May.

Pabrisk said the timetable was difficult, but manageable.

“If we succeed with this file, we can show to our electorate that the EU is serious, and efficient,” he told fellow MEPs.

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The European Commission on Tuesday proposed common management of the EU's external borders, financed jointly by all EU states, to clamp down on terrorism and illegal immigration. The Commission's paper on the integrated management of the EU's external borders states the long term objective to set up a European Corps of Border Guards. The Italian government will present on May 30 a study on the feasibility of setting up a European border control corps, tackling the political and economical aspects of this highly sensitive matter. The Commission's paper is unveiled amid debates sparked by recent success of far-right parties in Europe, who crusade against immigration and prone the closing of borders to ensure internal security.

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