EU lawmakers back a new border agency

Euranet Plus News Agency (Europe), 07/07/2016

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will help EU countries face any sudden influx of refugees. If an EU country were to refuse help, border controls in the Schengen area could be reinstated.

On Wednesday (July 6), the European Parliament voted in favour of setting up an EU Border and Coast Guard corps, following a proposal in December 2015 by the European Commission.

The new agency is essentially Frontex, the EU’s existing border agency, but with extended tasks.

A rapid reaction pool of 1,500 border guards will be able to provide assistance to any EU country facing overwhelming migratory pressure.

And the deployment of an emergency procedure could be triggered within three days.

“It’s not an intervention force, it is an assistance force because nobody is abolishing the responsibility of a member country to guard and to administer its sovereign borders,” said Artis Pabriks, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Pabriks is member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and rapporteur of the text which was voted on in Strasbourg.

“But there could be a situation where a country really needs assistance, then this country could apply to the European Union and to the agency to provide this assistance force,” Pabriks adds.

In case the country under pressure would refuse the assistance, it is not the Commission but the member states, gathered in the European Council, which would decide to provisionally reintroduce controls at the borders with this country.

For Ska Keller, Vice President of the Green group in the European Parliament, this is the wrong signal.

“I think it’s better if the Commission decides because they are more impartial. In the Council, we have a thing about how much influence does a member state have,” Keller said.

“So big member states will never be sanctioned, and small member states like Greece would be sanctioned rather more often. That is a problem. Our idea was that if a member state has – according to some others or the agency – flaws, then it should be able to justify itself publicly, but not be thrown out of Schengen.”

For Gisela Castro Insern, who works for Frontexit, an international campaign to defend migrants’ rights in the EU, Frontex will be given the wrong mandate.

“Frontexit might understand the needs for a forced intervention in member states when they are facing emergency situations, especially humanitarian ones,” Castro-Insern said.

“However, we completely disagree with the means that are given to this agency, because they are almost military means, and we think we should rather give member states human and technical resources in order to properly handle reception, in full respect of human rights and human dignity.”

The legislation will be sent to the Council for approval and should enter into force this autumn.

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