Wednesday

27th Jan 2021

EU agrees new border guard agency

  • Frontex is set to become bigger and much more powerful (Photo: Frontex)

The EU on Tuesday (21 June) reached a political agreement on a new EU border and coast agency but removed a controversial "right to intervene" feature.

The plan, first floated by the European Commission in December, would have allowed the new agency to deploy guards to an EU state without its consent.

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The latest iteration, hammered out late Tuesday evening between the EU institutions, now only allows EU states to impose internal border checks in the Schengen free travel area as a last resort.

The move signals broader fears over uncontrolled migration should an EU state fail to contain a sudden mass influx of people and then refuse help from the new border agency.

"As of now, Europe treats the protection of its borders as a common mission of solidarity," said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a statement.

The new system and agency was proposed after over 1 million people entered the EU last year, mostly through Greece, to seek international protection.

After six months of talks, the EU institutions reached a political agreement that will entitle member states, among other things, to temporarily shelve passport-free Schengen borders if another member state refuses to let border guards come in.

Such a move can only be triggered on an EU commission recommendation that says the Schengen area is under an existential threat. It then has to be voted through the Council, representing member states.

The European Parliament civil liberties (Libe) had opposed the internal control measures in May but negotiators capitulated following last minute talks on Tuesday.

The weakened clause is part of a new EU regulation to set up an EU border and coast guard agency that will replace the much weaker Warsaw-based Frontex.

The proposal will now go back to the Libe committee next week before a plenary session vote in early July in Strasbourg.

1,500 border guards

The new agency, which is formally a legal extension of Frontex, will have a pool of 1,500 guards at its disposal, and will remain based in Warsaw.

The plan is to have it operational by the end of summer or the start of autumn.

"This is not a silver bullet that can solve the current migration crisis or restore the Schengen area overnight, but it is a very much-needed first step," said the EU parliament's lead negotiator on the file, centre-right Latvian MEP Artis Pabriks.

Each EU state will have to contribute a set number of guards to reach the 1,500 target.

An annex in the regulation, once published, will outline exactly how many each EU state has to contribute.

Governments will also have to provide technical equipment and pay idle guards. But once deployed, the agency will pick up the border guard tab.

The EU commission had also wanted to empower the new agency with booting out rejected migrants in non-EU countries.

But the idea was rejected by the EU parliament and is no longer part of the final plan.

Instead, the agency will only be able to send people packing once confirmed by EU state national authorities.

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