21st Sep 2023

Frontex ends Lithuania border surveillance operation

Listen to article

The EU border agency Frontex will end border surveillance operations in Lithuania — and has implied a desire to return to Hungary.

The Warsaw-based agency's acting executive director Aija Kalnāja told MEPs on Tuesday (12 July) that it will no longer help Vilnius with border surveillance.

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

"As from tomorrow (13 July), we will not be participating or supporting Lithuania with the border surveillance," she said.

The move follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice against Lithuania in late June.

The court faulted Lithuania's legislation, which allowed for mass detention and stymied asylum requests. The case primarily dealt with migrants trying to enter Lithuania irregularly from Belarus in November 2021.

But Kalnāja said the withdrawal decision was not linked to the court ruling, noting the plan to stop border surveillance operations in Lithuania had been made prior to its publication.

"We need to shift personnel from quieter areas to the Central Med," she said instead.

She also said Frontex would retain an operational footprint in Lithuania, noting agents will still be working border checks.

And the agency's press services said it was a request by the Lithuanians to reduce the number of Frontex officers deployed in the country as the situation at the border with Belarus has stabilised.

There are currently 18 Frontex officers working at Lithuania's external borders, performing first and second line border check activities and cross-border crime detection, it said.

Amnesty International, an NGO, says Lithuania had arbitrarily detained thousands of people in militarised centres.

Some were tortured, they said.

The agency's fundamental rights officer, Jonas Grimheden, said they had flagged the abuse in Lithuania last autumn and then again earlier this year.

He said the agency failed to act on it.

"We could have avoided a lot of problems in Lithuania, if the agency would have acted on the opinion from back then," he said.

Hungary. More Frontex?

Kalnāja and Grimheden are also proposing the agency get more involved in EU states where violations are taking place.

The agency had in early 2020 pulled out most of its operations from Hungary, following an EU court judgement.

The agency's rule book cites article 46 as justification to suspend operations should such violations take place, which Frontex had triggered in Hungary.

But Kalnāja and Grimheden are now proposing a so-called "reverse article 46".

It means Frontex would shore up its agents in the offending EU state, instead of pulling out or suspending operations.

"Reversed article 46 would be much better from the fundamental rights perspective," said Grimheden.

He said a larger Frontex presence could help ensure fundamental rights violations don't take place.

Kalnāja echoed Grimheden, noting a significant increase in the migration pressure on Hungarian borders.

"We are absolutely relying on the reports of Hungarian counterparts," she said.

She said the agency cannot monitor what is happening in Hungary, noting some 3,000 weekly incidents of irregular arrivals on its borders.

But Dutch Green MEP Tineke Strik shed doubt on sending in more Frontex agents.

"So far, we did not see that more Frontex involvement has led to less violations," she said and demanded Kalnāja substantiate the claim.

"My gut feeling says yes, it actually does deliver," countered Kalnāja.

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 suspends operations in Hungary

The EU's border and coast guard agency, Frontex will suspend operations in Hungary. The move follows a European Court of Justice ruling in December demanding Hungary stop pushing people back into Serbia.

Lithuania law to allow 'volunteer' border guards to use violence

Lithuania's parliament passed a controversial new law allowing volunteers from around Europe to join its national border guard force — while giving them the right to use violence against asylum seekers and migrants crossing in from Belarus.

Latest News

  1. Report: Tax richest 0.5%, raise €213bn for EU coffers
  2. EU aid for Africa risks violating spending rules, Oxfam says
  3. Activists push €40bn fossil subsidies into Dutch-election spotlight
  4. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies
  5. Antifascism and fascism are opposites, whatever elites say
  6. MEPs back Germany's Buch to lead ECB supervisory arm
  7. Russia to blame for Azerbaijan attack, EU says
  8. Fresh dispute may delay EU-wide migration reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us