New measures to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard to better address migratory and security challenges were backed by the Civil Liberties Committee.
The revision of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) aims to remedy the current shortcomings, respond to the present needs and ensure the EU’s strategic readiness in the future in the field of security and migration.
A new standing corps of 10 000 staff
Civil Liberties Committee MEPs agreed on setting up a new standing corps to support EU countries on the ground. The new standing corps could, at the request of a member state, carry out border control, migration management or return tasks. It would also include a rapid reaction pool for rapid border interventions.
The standing corps would consist of 5 000 operational staff from both the Agency and member states, two years after the new rules take effect. The number would gradually rise to 10 000 operational staff five years after the entry into force of the rules. Currently the Agency relies solely on member states’ contributions through an annual pledging procedure.
More efficient return procedures and cooperation with non-EU countries
The updated Agency would be able to support return procedures in member states, for example by identifying irregularly staying non-EU nationals and assisting EU countries in obtaining travel documents for those subject to return. The new rules would also strengthen the cooperation between the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the EU Asylum Agency to ensure coordination between the two agencies.
With the new rules, the Agency would be able to organise joint operations with non-EU countries beyond the current limitation to countries neighbouring the EU. Civil Liberties MEPs also agreed on several safeguards to ensure the respect for fundamental rights in return interventions and in activities with third countries.
Frontex was established in 2004 to improve the integrated management of the external borders. Two years ago, Frontex was expanded to become the European Border and Coast Guard Agency that it is today. During the migration crisis, the Agency’s operational needs to support frontline member states have quadrupled: from operations requiring the deployment of 52 359 worker-days in 2014 up to 189 705 worker-days in 2017.
“This is a milestone moment, we have shown Europe’s added value by addressing citizens’ main concern across the EU. This new law will mean 10 000 new border and coast guards whose main aim is to better protect our borders and fight cross border crime. This law is fair to those in need of protection, firm with those who do not and tough on those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable,” said Rapporteur Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT).
The draft report was adopted by 35, to 9, 8 abstentions.
The committee also approved a mandate to start informal talks with the Council, which still requires plenary’s green light. Furthermore, before the negotiations can start, the Council has to complete its now partial general approach.