Tuesday

4th Oct 2022

Frontex caretaker leader could face EU court

  • The Hellenic Coast Guard has been accused of illegal pushbacks (Photo: Aegean Boat Report)
Listen to article

The EU's border police Frontex may end up in the European Court in Luxembourg for maintaining operations in Greece despite numerous reports of violations.

But the agency's new acting executive-director Aija Kalnaja has so far refrained from pulling Frontex from Greece in light of those violations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

Kalnaja has been with the agency since mid-2018 and became deputy executive director last year under Fabrice Leggeri, who resigned in May.

She has since been sent a 16-page letter of formal notice from front-LEX , a Dutch-based civil society organisation that advocates for refugees' and migrants' rights, demanding she take action or face possible court action.

On Tuesday (7 June), front-LEX lawyer Iftach Cohen told EUobserver that Kalnaja must invoke article 46 of the agency's rulebook.

The article says the agency's executive director may suspend or terminate any activity, for instance in Greece, if there are persistent rights violations.

But Kalnaja had last week described article 46 as a "blunt weapon", suggesting that the agency had no intention to withdraw from Greece.

"We would like to see that this is the last resort that we apply because it is the change of culture and change of culture is what we ultimately look for," she had told European lawmakers.

She also said that any such culture "will not happen in one day, neither in agency nor in the EU."

The statement is unlikely to assuage critics, following documented violations and illegal pushbacks, implicating Frontex, of people seeking safety in Greece to Turkey and elsewhere.

"Her nomination absolutely doesn't please us and we don't believe in her," said Cohen of Kalnaja.

Cohen also cast doubt on Kalnaja's claim that she has not seen a 200-page report by the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

The report had faulted Frontex over pushbacks and recommended disciplinary measures against Leggeri and two additional senior Frontex leaders.

"It is really absurd as the acting executive director not being exposed to such an explosive and relevant report," said Cohen, noting it would likely add to the pile of evidence to suspend Frontex operations in Greece.

The letter also references a culture "of concealment and retaliation" at Frontex, which implicates Kalnaja, it says.

Cohen said they intend to challenge Frontex on a "failure to act '' in light of the evidence of pushbacks and other violations in Greece.

"Or otherwise under proceedings for annulment, which is going to be really unprecedented in EU law," he said.

The front-LEX letter was sent on Monday. The agency now has 60 days to respond.

"There has been no change in operational cooperation between the Greek authorities and Frontex," said a Frontex spokesperson, in an email, when asked to comment.

The agency has 473 standing corps officers, 20 vessels, 31 patrol cars and two aerial assets in Greece.

Copies of the letter were also sent to EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson and Kharim Khan, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Frontex had pulled out of Hungary in early 2021 following years of rights abuse and ignored warnings from its own fundamental rights officer.

The operations were suspended after Budapest ignored a European Court of Justice ruling for pushing people into Serbia, which is illegal under EU law.

This article was updated on Wednesday 8 June to incorporate a response from Frontex.

Frontex left 'traumatised' says caretaking leadership

Aija Kalnaja took over Frontex as a caretaker after its executive director Fabrice Leggeri resigned last month. On Monday, she promised more transparency and better management of the Warsaw-based agency.

Frontex chief tenders resignation

Fabrice Leggeri took on the role of the executive director of #Frontex in 2015. He posted a resignation letter earlier this week. Another senior official, Thibauld de la Haye Jousselin, may also have resigned.

EU migration and asylum pact faces reality check

The EU wants to finalise the overhaul of the migration and asylum laws before the end of the current mandate in 2024. But big issues on solidarity remain unsolved, including in the European Parliament.

Opinion

Could blockchain help EU process asylum claims?

Asylum proceedings are one of the biggest issues with the EU's migration policy, and digital identification through blockchain to register and track refugees would be an instrumental step towards the level of necessary reform.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  2. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  3. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  4. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  5. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat
  6. Poland insists on German WW2 reparations
  7. Russia halts gas supplies to Italy
  8. Bulgaria risks hung parliament after inconclusive vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  2. EU wants probe into alleged Nagorno-Karabakh war crimes
  3. EU officials were warned of risk over issuing financial warning
  4. EU debates national energy plans amid calls for more coordination
  5. What Modi and Putin’s ‘unbreakable friendship’ means for the EU
  6. EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges
  7. Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter
  8. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us