European Interest

Frontex: MEPs refuse to discharge EU border agency over its management in 2020


MEPs refused to discharge the 2020 budgets for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the Council, and granted discharge to the European Economic and Social Committee.

345 MEPs voted in favour of the committee recommendation to refuse discharge to Frontex, 284 voted against (in favour of granting discharge) and 8 abstained.

MEPs criticise the “magnitude of the committed serious misconduct” under the previous executive director of the agency, who resigned on 28 April 2022, following the release of a revealing report by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF. The agency failed to protect the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers and, according to media report, was involved in the illegal pushbacks of at least 957 refugees between March 2020 and September 2021, Parliament says.

MEPs also express shock regarding the suicide of a staff member, “related to alleged practices of sexual harassment” and note that 17 cases of sexual harassment in the agency were reported in 2020, of which 15 were closed without follow-up.

Parliament welcomes the appointment of the new interim Frontex director in July 2022, the corrective actions already taken or planned and the positive changes with respect to fundamental rights. They salute the new management style within the agency, which tries to make it a safe place “where people are not afraid to speak up about possible wrongdoings”, while noting that the problems at the agency might be of a deeper “structural” nature and go beyond the failings of individuals. This point was stressed by many MEPs during the plenary debate on Frontex’s responsibility for fundamental rights violations on the EU’s external borders. Many others, at the same time, argued in favour of granting discharge, by pointing to the ongoing reforms in Frontex and progress towards fulfilling conditions that Parliament had made in the previous discharge report.

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