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Brussels, 16 April 2014
Commissioner Malmström welcomes the Parliament's vote on new rules for Frontex-coordinated sea border operations
"Today's vote is an important step towards enhancing the effects of sea border surveillance operations and to improve coordination in search and rescue situations that may arise during such operations.
We have witnessed too many tragic losses of lives in the Mediterranean recently: having clear binding rules on interception, search and rescue and disembarkation will help preventing such tragedies in the future. The new rules will ensure the effective and proper functioning of current and future Frontex-coordinated sea operations, contributing to protecting and saving migrants' lives.
The new Regulation strengthens the protection of fundamental rights, including the application of the principle of non-refoulement in case of disembarkation in a third country. It also sets out clear procedures to be followed by border guards when facing a rescue situation during a border surveillance operation, in particular to assess the emergency situations of migrant boats", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
On 12 April 2013, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation establishing rules for sea operations coordinated by Frontex. This Regulation will replace a Council Decision on the same subject-matter (2010/252/EU) which was annulled by the EU Court of Justice in September 2012 (C-355/10).
The Court had annulled the decision on procedural grounds, namely that it introduced new essential elements to the Schengen Borders Code. The Court found that the provisions on interception, rescue and disembarkation were essential elements of external maritime border surveillance which required political choices to be made and in the context of the EU’s institutional system this falls within the responsibility of the Council and the European Parliament.
In its ruling the Court decided to maintain the effects of the decision until it is replaced by new rules.
The new Regulation will apply to sea operations coordinated by Frontex. Its provisions on interception as well as search and rescue situations and disembarkation will be entirely binding (the provisions on search and rescue and disembarkation included in the Council Decision were non-binding).
The Council now needs to adopt the text approved by the European Parliament before the Regulation enters into force.