Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Frontex Creates European Border Guard Teams

Ralitsa Kovacheva, September 16, 2011

The European Parliament has adopted new rules for the EU Agency for Operational Cooperation at External Borders -Frontex. A significant change, on which the EP insisted during the negotiations with the Council, is to create European border guard teams. They will be formed by national border guards, assigned by the Member States to conduct joint missions, rapid border interventions and pilot projects.

"When national border guards participate in Frontex missions they will now act as European Border Guards. This underscores the idea that in a free movement Schengen Zone, the strengthening of our external borders is not just a matter for frontier Member States but a matter of common concern," parliamentary rapporteur on the topic Simon Busuttil (EPP, Malta) commented.

"The introduction of the concept of ‘European border guard teams’ strengthens the European nature of the missions and shows readiness for shared responsibility and integrated governance of the common borders," Bulgarian MEP Maria Nedelcheva (EPP,Bulgaria) noted.

Frontex will now be able to buy or lease equipment of its own, such as cars or helicopters, rather than depending on the Member States to allocate these as was before. However, they cannot refuse to help the agency with personnel and equipment. Among the tasks of Frontex will be to assist Member States in emergency humanitarian situations and rescue operations at sea.

To ensure respect for human rights, upon MEPs' request, the agency will appoint a special ‘fundamental rights officer’ and will form a ‘consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights’. It will include the EU Fundamental Rights and Asylum Support agencies, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and NGOs.

However, according to the Greens, who abstained from voting, "it also remains unclear who is ultimately responsible if there are problems with Frontex missions" in this regard. While they welcomed the appointment of an inspector for human rights, the Greens believe that "the fact that this position is not independent will undermine its effectiveness", Greens spokesperson on migration and home affairs Ska Keller (Germany) said.

According to Bulgarian MEP Maria Nedelcheva, "migration is a phenomenon related to people, thus all actions and any new functioning mechanism must be consistent with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union."

The Socialists and Democrats' Frontex rapporteur Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France) added that to finish the job the EU should “consistently address other related issues on the adoption of a common migration policy, such as the resettlement of refugees, a real integration of migrants, and access to just and fair asylum procedures."

"Travel flows are increasing and security threats need to be addressed in the most effective manner. The EU needs to commit to continuous improvements and be ready to adapt to new challenges and an ever changing reality, while fully respecting the rights of people fleeing war and persecution and looking to Europe for protection," Commissioner for Internal Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom said, welcoming the changes in Frontex mandate, adopted by the EP. On Friday, September 16, Ms Malmström will present the Commission's proposals on strengthening efficacy and legitimacy of the Schengen system.

The Council should give its final approval to the new Frontex rules, so they can enter into force by the end of 2011.