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17th Apr 2021

EU Parliament to hold Frontex probe behind closed doors

  • Frontex is based in Warsaw. Its French director will be before MEPs in Brussels on Thursday - but in private (Photo: European Union, 2019)

The European Parliament is keeping the public in the dark in its first real probe into the EU's border agency, Frontex.

Over a dozen MEPs will be cross-examining the agency's executive director, Fabrice Leggeri, on Thursday (4 March) for 45 minutes.

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But a draft agenda says the meeting will be held behind closed doors, a decision EUobserver understands was made by European Parliament vice-president Roberta Metsola and the secretariat.

Metsola is a Maltese centre-right MEP, spearheading the probe known as the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group.

That group was recently set up in the wake of allegations of illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers and migrants involving the Warsaw-based agency.

The group's mandate notes its twice-a-month meetings "should be public to the extent possible", in an effort to assess Frontex compliance with fundamental rights.

Metsola did not respond when asked by email why the Thursday session is held behind closed doors. And her office, in a telephone call, was also unable to reply.

For its part, a spokesperson from Frontex said it had not - to his knowledge - demanded any specific format for the meeting.

Nor did the European Commission, whose home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson will also be in attendance.

Frontex's Leggeri has himself welcomed the parliamentary investigation.

Centre-left and left-wing MEPs in the group are now demanding the Thursday meeting be held in public.

Among them are MEPs Cornelia Ernst and Sira Rego, both from the Left group.

Both had sent an email earlier this week to parliament administrators and other MEPs in the group, seen by EUobserver.

"The issues discussed in our next meeting are of public interest," they wrote, noting the presence of both Leggeri and Johansson.

Their demand has since received support from centre-left MEPs Bettina Vollath and Javier Moreno.

The Thursday session is divided up into two 15-minute rounds of questions by MEPs, followed two 10-minute responses from both Leggeri and Johansson, and then closing remarks by Metsola.

The first meeting held earlier this month by the group was also behind closed doors but mostly dealt with administrative issues.

MEPs have since decided, post-publication of this article, to make the inquiry public.

This article was updated at 16:10 on 3 March 2021, noting MEPs decided to make the inquiry public

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