Brussels, 24 February 2010
Commission responds to calls for stronger EU border management agency
The Commission today made proposals to strengthen European Union's border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency's disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States. It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: "‘Today's proposal will pave the way for more solidarity and better cooperation between EU countries. This will give us the opportunity to better deal with irregular immigration and human trafficking, while at the same time strengthening the safeguards to guarantee full respect of fundamental rights. I hope that the European Parliament and Council will move quickly to turn this proposal into law, so that the Agency can get the human and technical resources that it needs."
Cooperation between EU countries on managing immigration through the EU agency Frontex has so far been limited by its lack of resources and of insufficient coordination between national authorities, according to evaluations carried out by the Commission and by an independent evaluation. Frontex is a key tool for maintaining an area without internal borders and helps EU countries to coordinate border patrols over air, land and sea.
Today's proposal would ensure that Frontex can provide appropriate technical and human resources in the framework of joint border patrols. EU countries would have to ensure that a pool of equipment such as boats and planes are at the disposal of the Agency, which would also be able to gradually buy or lease equipment.
The proposal also introduces an explicit requirement for all border guards taking part in operations to have been trained in fundamental rights, with the aim to safeguard that all immigrants are met with full respect of fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-refoulement.
The operational capacity will be enhanced by clarifying the respective roles of Frontex and the participating Member States, while respecting the principle that each Member States remains responsible for controlling its section of the external border; specific provisions are proposed concerning the operational plan, the evaluation of the operations and incident reporting schemes.
Frontex will continue to be able to coordinate joint operations, returning immigrants to their country of origin. Safeguards are put in place to make sure that these return operations are carried out in full respect of fundamental rights. For example, an independent monitor shall be present during such operations and report to the Commission on the compliance by Member States with EU law and a code of conduct that sets out the fundamental rights standards to be respected.
The proposals now have to be debated and approved by the European Parliament and EU governments in the Council.
Frontex was set up in 2005 to coordinate EU Member States' border control operations on the EU's external borders. Frontex is based in Warsaw and has 220 employees. It gets €80 million from the EU annual budget.
Frontex coordinates cooperation between national border patrollers, provides training for border guards, centralises surveillance data from EU countries, and assists Member States in carrying out joint return operations.
At the European Council of 10-11 December 2009, EU governments agreed on a new work programme for the EU in the area of justice and home affairs, based on a Commission proposal earlier in the year ( IP/09/894 ). EU governments called on the Commission to propose improvements to Frontex, as part of the Stockholm Programme, at the European Council on 10-11 December 2009 ( MEMO/08/84 )
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