Mittwoch, der 24. Februar 2010

Commission wants to strengthen Frontex

Today, February 24 2010, the European Commission through its Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, has proposed a new Regulation to strengthen Frontex.

While the full text of the COM is not yet available, the press conference, as well as some articles that have already appeared, allow to glean what is to come.

1. Operations: There is supposed to be a „revised mechanism“ to make Frontex operations stronger. The problem seems to be that Member States pledge to support operations with resources and staff, but don’t follow up, at times leaving operations with the resources and staff of the hosting country. Now, Frontex is supposed to announce a year beforehand what operations it is going to run. Member States than „signalise“ what they are willing to contribute, and will then be bound by their pledge. Also, Frontex will be allowed to „gradually“ lease material given the need. There will be no budget raise (at 80 M€ so far) in this budget term, so money will need to come from the current budget.

2. Coordination: Coordination remains the mandate for Frontex, this will not be changed. Frontex is supposed to be strengthened however (it was that vague at the presse conference) and is also supposed to be strengthened on the evaluation of operations. Member States should also be forced to provide more information for risk analysis.

3. Third Countries: Frontex should be allowed to supply „technical assistance“ to Third Countries and to also station liaison officers there.

4. Fundamental rights: Deportation flights are supposed to respect fundamental human rights and should also be monitored by an NGO representative (eg Red Cross). This is supposed to function through an „obligatory code of conduct“. Frontex is also supposed to continue its training of national border guards on fundamental human rights and international law, e.g. the law of non-refoulement. Frontex is also supposed to work closely with the new Asylum support office in Malta and the EU Human Rights agency in Vienna.

Several journalists asked if this meant that Frontex had before indeed violated human rights. Ms Malmström said, this was before her time, but later acknowledged that there might have been incidents: „There have been errors“.

The proposal will be submitted to the Council and the Parliament. Ms Malmsträm also stated that she would make more proposals in due time on asylum, possibilities of legal migration and the „fight against illegal migration“, asking for a „coherent and holistic view on migration and asylum in the EU“.

Further clues: One journalist wanted to know if the EU was negotiating with Libya on migration. Ms Malmström denied that.

Ms Malmström hinted that Frontex might be coordinating even more deportation flights (31 in 2009 with about 1.500 people deported).

Mr Barrot, Ms Malmström’s predecessor, started negotiating a cooperation treaty between Frontex and Turkey. There are regular contacts, and Ms Malmström seemed content that there would be a treaty.

On the Regional Frontex Office in Piraeus, Greece. Ms Malmström stated it was pilot project, to „reinforce what was already in the region“. It would certainly be linked to the Greek authorities and should be „up and running soon“. If it turns out to be successful, setting up more such offices is considered.

Information sharing between Frontex and other EU Agencies such as Europol, Sitcen etc. This is not in the proposal although it was identified as a problem. Ms Malmström will propose a general revision (read: liberalisation) of data sharing mechanisms in the EU.

Will Frontex have its own border guards? „It could be possible to have a pool of […] human resources“, but Frontex will certainly not be a European Border Guard, that is not its function.

On Malta’s refusal to participate in operations if migrants detained will be brought to the host country instead of the nearest port. Ms Malmström stated that the law of the sea gives indications how this is to be handled, and that the mechanism would be set up beforehand.

Questioned why Frontex is researching the use of UAVs/drones in border control, although these techs are developed for war, Ms Malmström stated that they are not being used, that there is research, but there has not been any decision yet.

This post will be updated as we go along, so stay tuned.