Thursday

23rd May 2019

MEPs fast-track EU border guard plan

  • Frontex guards on the Greek border. The European border guard will have twice the resources of Frontex. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU institutions are fast-tracking plans to establish a European border and coast guard (EBCG) agency.

Members of the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (Libe) on Monday (30 May) endorsed a report on the proposal.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

They also gave Artis Pabriks, a centre-right Latvian lawmaker, the mandate to start negotiations with EU member states without the need for passing through a plenary vote for approval.

The guard is bound to be operational after the summer.

The legislative process has been fast by EU standards. The commission presented its proposal in December 2015. EU ministers rubber-stamped it in April.

Pabriks also met with council and commission representatives on Tuesday morning (31 May) to get negotiations under way.

The EP negotiator is confident that negotiations will be swift.

”There is no member state that isn’t interested in having more advanced and better management of the EU outside borders,” Pabriks told journalists on Tuesday.

The proposal would give the council the right to deploy intervention teams when EU external borders are ”under pressure” - for instance, in case of the arrival of large numbers of refugees.

MEPs endorsed a clause which gives the council the right to send teams even to a member state that does not want the help. The country’s objections can be overruled by a qualified majority of the other member states.

The new guard, with an annual budget of €300 million, will have twice the financial and human resources of the current border agency, Frontex, which it will replace.

”If this appears to be too limited, there’s a possibility to grow financial resources until 2020”, Pabriks said.

The agency’s pool of 1,500 guards should have the capacity to be deployed ”within days”, he added.

The idea to set up a European agency for border guards is not new. It was floated by then-commissioner Antonio Vitorino back in 2002.

But member states were reluctant to give the EU too much control of their borders and opted for a more limited approach.

They felt more comfortable with Frontex, which only managed operational cooperation at external borders.

One and a half year ago, an EU source told this website that the commission was dusting off the idea of a new EU border guard with an independent command and control centre.

But it was a long-term plan, the contact stressed, and mentioned 2030 or 2035 as realistic dates for such an agency to open.

The reason why everyone, including MEPs, is now endorsing the propoal is the ”very strong pressure at EU borders [with] migration and asylum seeking”, Pabriks said.

”Not every country at the EU external border is able alone to face the challenges.”

Non-governmental organisations remain sceptical, however. Ecre, the European council on refugees and exiles, told this website the parliament had failed to clarify a number of human rights concerns.

In a report published earlier this year with the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International, Ecre said: "The division of responsibilities between the agency and member states remains unclear, which is illustrated by tasks being variously described as 'coordination' 'cooperation' 'facilitation' or 'support' without any clear definition of these terms".

The parliament failed to clarify responsibility for possible human rights violations, Ecre secretary general Catherine Woollard told EUobserver.

"We are also concerned about the lack of a strong, independent complaints mechanism, and overall lack of safeguards," she added.

Artis Pabriks told this website the EP report safeguarded the right to asylum.

He said that since the visit of pope Francis to the European Parliament in November 2014, "we know the EU has the highest standards in the world".

He added that the parliament has proposed to strengthen the capacities and budget of the fundamental rights officer who already exists at Frontex.

Ecre welcomed the step, and suggested strengthening the role of human rights reporting.

"The strengthening of the independent complaints mechanism is positive. However it is hard to see how independence will be guaranteed in the model described," Woollard said.

The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) told Libe members on Monday (30 May) that refoulement of potential asylum seekers was currently one of its main concerns.

MEPs question EU border guard proposal

Leftist and Green MEPs criticise proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, questioning legal responsibility for rights violations.

EU warns Hungary over Afghan refugees

Budapest tried and failed last week to deport three families to Afghanistan, and is accused of denying food to others stuck in its transit zone. The European Commission says it is taking the allegations "quite seriously."

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us