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European Border Guard Agency: European Parliament position for negotiations with the Council
14.6.16
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On 30 May the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE) adopted its position on the proposed Regulation for a European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which would significantly expand the powers of Frontex. The text adopted by LIBE will be used as the basis for the Parliament's negotiations with the Council in the secret "trilogue" procedure.

See: Report on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC (pdf)

The rapporteur for the text was Artis Pabriks, a Latvian MEP who is a member of the European People's Party. His explanatory statement annexed to the text says:

"The rapporteur proposes a number of amendments which should enable the Agency to better achieve its objectives. It is crucial that the Agency in the future has the necessary border guards and equipment at its disposal whenever this is needed and especially that it is able to deploy them within a short timeframe when necessary.

As regards the proposed procedure for situations at the border requiring urgent action (Article 18) the rapporteur considers that the proposal respects Member States' sovereignty as it also foresees that the Member State concerned has to agree with the Agency on the operational plan and is also the one who has to issue instructions to the teams. The rapporteur, however, believes that decisions to act should be taken by the Council to strengthen the decision making process and further emphasise the sovereignty of the Member States. There also has to be a realistic procedure for action in case a Member States does not follow a decision of Council. In such cases it is no option to wait for the outcome of a court procedure. Instead, as a last resort in certain well described circumstances reintroducing control at certain internal borders might be necessary in order to protect the Schengen area as such.

The rapporteur also considers that deploying liaison officers to all Member States with an external land or sea border will enable the Agency to better achieve its objectives and facilitate information exchange between the Member State and the Agency. In principle liaison officers should be deployed to all Member States as all Member States should participate in the further building-up of a common culture of high standards regarding border management. In recognition of the fact that Member States with only air borders are exposed to less risk, liaison officers do not necessarily have to be deployed to these Member States. The external borders will be constantly monitored with periodic risk analyses and mandatory vulnerability assessments to identify and address the weakness at the external borders. The rapporteur proposes to strengthen the provisions regarding the equipment for operations. A rapid reaction pool of border guards and a technical equipment pool will be at the disposal of the Agency aiming at their deployment in rapid border interventions within days.

Given the increased role of the Agency in returns, the rapporteur clarifies that in this regard the objective of the agency is to assist the Member States with practical organisation of the return operations, without entering into the merits of return decisions issued by the Member States. Furthermore, given the stronger role and enhanced operational tasks of the Agency the rapporteur supports the establishment of a number of fundamental rights safeguards for the Agency.

The rapporteur also considers that the Regulation should be "future proof". With the focus currently being on contributing to the effective management of migration at the external borders of the Union, its role involves addressing potential threats at the Union's external borders, including crime with cross- border dimension.

As regards efficiency, the rapporteur proposes to delete the concept of the supervisory board and the multiannual programming exercise as both bear the inherent risk of being an obstacle to efficient action. Also the rapporteur considers that instead of operating through grants the Agency should use contracts when financing or co-financing activities. Grant schemes lack flexibility and are lengthy while contractual relation could be more efficient.

The rapporteur also considers necessary to increase the accountability of the future Agency by providing for more information to be made available to Parliament and the general public. More transparency is necessary to increase legitimacy and to avoid false impressions as to the role of the Agency.

Finally, the rapporteur subscribes to the view that adopting this Regulation is urgent in order to strengthen the control of the external border and thus return to a situation without border controls within the Schengen area."

Background and further documentation: Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Statewatch European Monitoring and Documentation Centre)

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