Thursday

24th Sep 2020

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Most EU heads of state and government appear to be pressing ahead with plans to create a standing corps of 10,000 border guards - amid some concerns over national sovereignty.

Speaking to reporters in Salzburg on Thursday (20 September) following a meeting among all 28 leaders, EU council president Donald Tusk said there was a "sharp determination" to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

"It is also clear that there are issues regarding sovereignty and the size of Frontex that will have to be further discussed," he said.

His views were echoed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Juncker said a "basic consensus" had been reached.

Kurz wants an agreement reached on Frontex before the end of the year, whose role in deporting rejected migrants will also increase, in the hopes of getting the expanded Warsaw-based agency up and running by 2020.

The Austrian chancellor views Frontex as part of a master plan to shore up external borders, telling reporters that other proposals of offloading people rescued at sea onto north African states "is not really necessary for resolving the migration issue."

EU leaders in June had agreed on vague plans to coordinate disembarkation and search and rescue at sea with all the countries rimming the Mediterranean.

Kurz appeared to give the idea short shrift, saying African states should instead emulate Egypt in preventing boats from leaving in the first place.

"Egypt is efficient, Egypt serves as an example when it comes to combatting illegal migration and smuggling of persons. We are grateful for that. We want to support the Egyptians," he said.

Bigger Frontex? No thanks.

But not everybody is convinced of a bigger Frontex - with Greece, Italy, Hungary, and Spain raising red flags.

"There is no need for Frontex to defend the Hungarian border for us," said Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban, according to the MTI news wire.

He said the commission proposal seeks to strip national powers from member states and hand them over to a body managed at the EU level.

"Frontex is a good thing, but Frontex has never ever defended a single metre on the border, while we defended hundreds of metres," Orban said, claiming that this view is in majority in the European Council.

Hungary has erected fences along its border with Serbia, sentenced a Syrian man to jail on terrorism charges after hurling rocks at border police, and has refused to feed rejected asylum seekers.

Orban's chief spokesperson told reporters earlier this month that it is government policy not to offer "free food for any illegal migrants" over fears it will entice others to come.

Meanwhile, Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte was on Thursday quoted in Ansa news agency questioning the usefulness of the extra Frontex investment, noting their deployment also poses a question of sovereignty.

"I'd prefer these investments to be destined for Africa," he told the news agency.

The Frontex proposal

Under the commission's proposal, Frontex's budget would increase six fold to over €11bn for 2021 to 2027.

The commission says the extra money is needed to allow Frontex, which has billed itself as a law enforcement agency, to carry out operations, procure its own equipment, and have its own staff.

It also maintains that national authorities retain operational command and that the EU agency cannot deploy guards without the hosting member state's consent.

But it is also now demanding mandatory contributions from member states given past experience of shortfalls when it comes to both staff and equipment.

Frontex currently has an own staff of 1,300 people and a reserve pool of 1,500 border guards, on loan from member states.

The EU wants a deploying staff of 10,000 with its own executive powers to carry out border control checks. Such tasks are today only performed by national border guards.

The statuary staff of the agency, under the new mandate, would be able to carry out border management and return tasks without having to turn to their national counterparts.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

Analysis

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

The past 18 months have seen the EU's border agency Frontex morph into a law enforcement as it steps up efforts to crack down on crime and terrorism.

Feature

Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit

Decisions in the EU are a complicated process of intense negotiations, quid pro quos and horse-trading, until an agreement can finally be reached. But that didn't happen in Salzburg.

Libyan militia cash in on EU's anti-smuggling strategy

More people in Libya are being inducted into slavery as people-traffickers try to monetise their investment by selling them. A senior UN refugee agency official described it as an unintended side effect of the reduction of migrant boat departures.

EU migration pact to deter asylum

The EU commission's newest pact on migration and asylum seeks to deter people from claiming asylum by speeding up procedures and sending most of them back home.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium: masks no longer mandatory from October
  2. Report: China built 380 Muslim internment camps
  3. Belgian government formation in final phase
  4. Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony
  5. Study: No-deal Brexit more costly than corona for UK
  6. Polish miners in underground protest against energy plan
  7. EU animal farming emits more CO2 than cars
  8. Navalny leaves Berlin hospital after poisoning attempt

Border pre-screening centres part of new EU migration pact

Michael Spindelegger, the former minister of foreign affairs of Austria and current director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), reveals some of the proposals in the European Commission's upcoming pact on migration and asylum.

EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece

Over 120 asylum seeking children and teenagers in Greece have so far been relocated to a handful of EU states in a scheme the European Commission says is a demonstration of solidarity. EU states have pledged to take in 2,000.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  2. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  3. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities
  4. EU 'failed' to safeguard civic freedoms during pandemic
  5. The corruption fuelling the Bulgaria protests
  6. EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link
  7. EU states struggle to better sync Covid-19 measures
  8. EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us