29th Jan 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.

Greece seeking possible jail for aid workers in flawed case

Some 24 are facing trial in Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, on charges related to Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), a registered NGO that had in the past assisted the Greek Coast Guard in rescue operations.

Over 4,000 Frontex documents published by German NGO

Over 4,000 documents from the EU's border police agency Frontex, including freedom of information request responses, are now public. The files were uploaded and published by German-based transparency group FragDenStaat.


Six reasons why 'where are you really from?' is racist

Next time you think people should not be criticised for "just being curious" about someone's origin, ask yourself just why that harmless extra sub-question only ever surfaces around non-white Europeans.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us