MEPs approved the new law to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard, on Wednesday, to ensure better protection of EU external borders.

The changes to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), already agreed with EU ministers, aim to resolve the current shortcomings and better respond to the present needs in security and migration.

A new standing corps of 10 000 staff to be set up by 2027

A new standing corps will be set up to support EU countries on the ground in border control and return tasks, as well as in the fight against cross-border crime. Starting with 5 000 operational staff in 2021, the standing corps will be fully operational by 2027 with 10 000 staff. In addition, a rapid reserve pool will be created for deployment in emergencies.

The standing corps will consist of border and coast guards employed by the agency as well as staff seconded on a mandatory basis by EU countries.

More efficient return procedures and cooperation with non-EU countries

The updated agency will be able to support return procedures in member states, for example by identifying irregularly staying non-EU nationals and by assisting national authorities to obtain travel documents. The new rules will also strengthen the cooperation with the European Asylum Support Office.

Cooperation with non-EU countries will also be strengthened, by allowing for new agreements beyond the current limitation to countries neighbouring the EU. Respect for fundamental rights and protection of personal data in such cooperation are ensured through several safeguards. Additionally, a significant number of fundamental rights monitors will constantly assess that the agency’s operational activities comply with fundamental rights.

The rules were adopted by 403 to 162, with 44 abstentions. The text now needs to be formally approved by the Council before entering into force.

EU law on border security adopted in record time

Τhe law which will revamp the European Border and Coast Guard has been adopted by the European Parliament in record time.

Roberta Metsola MEP, the Parliament’s Rapporteur for the new law, explained that today’s firm approval by the European Parliament is a big win for all Europeans. “In less than six months, we managed to draft, negotiate and approve a new law which will provide a response to the topmost concern of people in every Member State. This makes them more secure. Europeans will feel safer at home, as the continent’s borders will be better managed, and there will be new tools to combat cross-border crime.”

One of the main proposals pushed forward by the EPP Group is the addition of 10,000 border and coast guards and operational staff. “These guards will be in a position to assist Member States in carrying out border control checks, as well as facilitating the process of returns. They can also be called by Member States in cases of emergency”, Metsola said. In fact, in such circumstances, the Agency will now also be in a position to provide equipment such as airplanes and boats, within a maximum of a few days.

The revamped agency will be crucial to facilitate the process of returns of those individuals who are deemed not eligible for protection in the Union. “My policy throughout the negotiations was clear: we need to be fair with those in need of protection, firm with those who are not, and harsh with those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable. And this process should be done as swiftly as possible”, Metsola said. The Agency will now be in a position to identify irregular individuals in the Union, as well as assist national authorities to obtain their travel documents.

Concluding, Metsola said: “This is a proud moment for Europe. People asked and we delivered in record time. We will now ensure that the revamp of the European Border and Coast Guard is done as swiftly as possible.”

S&Ds: The new powers of the Agency must come with new responsibilities

“It has been clear for years that the EU needs a more joined up approach to managing its external borders. The European Border and Coast Guard has an important role to play, supporting and helping coordinate member states’ work. With this strengthening of the Agency, we have ensured that it has the budget, the staff and the powers to manage this effectively. The first priority of the Agency must be to support member states in preventing more needless death in the Mediterranean,” said S&D Group MEP, Péter Niedermüller who negotiated the new rules on behalf of the Parliament.

“As the Agency is being granted new powers, these must also come with new responsibilities. Our Group pushed hard to ensure that this ensured greater transparency and accountability and that it was not given tasks that fell well beyond its remit. We made sure the agency will play no role in returning people from one third country to another third country, something right-wing groups had pushed for. This was a dangerous proposal and we ensured it was not in the final agreement,” he concluded.

S&D spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, Birgit Sippel added that “the Schengen passport free area is one of the great success stories of the European Union and a symbol for a united Europe. For it to function effectively, we need to have well managed external borders. This is not just an issue for national governments but also something that affects all EU citizens. These new proposals must go together with finally ending the supposedly temporary internal border controls within the EU”.

FRONTEX’s unchecked power grab endangers human rights says the Left

According to GUE/NGL Group a vote that gives the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) unprecedented powers overwhelmingly passed in the European Parliament today – giving this opaque EU body unrivalled powers and unchecked accountability.

In plans which have been strongly criticised by the Left, FRONTEX will command a budget of €11.3 billion from 2021-2027, with the staff number rising from just 70 in 2016 to 10,000 operation agents by 2027 – making it the biggest agency in the EU.

Further, FRONTEX will maintain Fortress Europe: closing the EU’s borders, deporting as many people as possible and advancing the externalisation process to third countries.

All will be done with zero accountability or checks and balances – making it virtually impossible for member states to apply alternative models of border policy.

“EU governments and the European Commission are responsible for the death of at least 18,297 people during the past five years in the Mediterranean. One day, they should be tried for these crimes. Their policies of closing borders, of pushing people to risk their lives at sea, have led to 10 people being murdered on average every day. The directive that’s been passed today is the direct result of these inhumane practices,” said, commenting on the vote, Marina Albiol (Izquierda Unida, Spain).

“The European border and coast guard is a paramilitary force which will have up to 10,000 agents, and a two-billion euro budget per year. It will militarise our borders, carry out deportations and put migrants in detention centres. It has become the militant branch of the European Commission, and its raison d’être is to prevent people from coming to Europe. The far right’s dream has finally come true thanks to the usual grand coalition agreement between the conservatives, social democrats and liberals,” she concluded.