Today, the Permanent Representatives Committee agreed, on behalf of the Council of the European Union, its negotiating position on the proposed regulation on the European Border Guard. The proposal, which is part of the Borders legislative package, was submitted by the Commission on 15 December 2015. On the basis of this mandate, the Netherlands Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as the latter has adopted its position.
Klaas Dijkhoff, Minister for Migration of the Netherlands and President of the Council welcomed the agreement: "The European Border Guard is a useful and necessary means to improve controls at our common external borders. We need effective border controls to better manage migration flows and improve the security for our citizens. I'm pleased that the urgency of this measure has been recognized and that we have been able to come to a timely agreement."
According to the Council the primary objective of the European Border Guard is to ensure and implement, as a shared responsibility, the European integrated border management at the external borders with a view to managing migration effectively and ensuring a high level of security within the EU, while safeguarding EU-internal free movement.
It will consist of an European Border Guard Agency (the current Frontex Agency with expanded tasks) and National authorities responsible for border management. The renewed Agency would focus its activities on the establishment of an operational strategy for the European integrated border management and on the assistance in its implementation of all Member States concerned.
The means for this task include:
- Appointing liaison officers of the Agency in Member States
- drafting of vulnerability assessment regarding Member States' border control capacity
- organising joint operations and rapid border interventions
- assisting the Commission in the coordination of migration management support teams when a Member State faces disproportionate migratory pressures in hotspot areas of their external borders
- ensuring the practical execution of measures in emergency situations
- providing for a mandatory pooling of human resources by establishing a rapid reserve pool of at least 1500 border guards
- organising, coordinating and conducting return operations and interventions (establishing a Return Office within the Agency)
- promoting cooperation with third countries, by coordinating operational cooperation between them and Member States on border management.
In order to improve Coast Guard functions, better cooperation between agencies is envisaged. For this reason, the mandates of the European Fisheries Control Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency will be aligned to the new European Border Guard. Therefore, the Permanent Representatives Committee also agreed its negotiating positions on the two related proposals amending the Regulations establishing the two agencies.
The Council Presidency's intention is to reach a political agreement with the Parliament before the end of its term, as requested by the European Council of 18-19 February 2016.
European Parliament's position: institutional, economic and fundamental rights concerns
In its legislative financial statement the Commission is proposing an overall budget for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency of EUR 1.212 million for the remainder of this Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), concretely EUR 281 million in 2017, EUR 298 million in 2018, EUR 310 million in 2019 and EUR 322 million in 2020.
In one hand, given the limited resources available in the current MFF the Committee on Budgets of the Parliament has serious doubts that the envisaged increases can be financed within the ceiling. The Committee is of the opinion that the Commission needs to present a proposal for an upward revision of the ceiling as soon as possible in order to be able to finance the additional needs linked to the current migration crisis which is unlikely to diminish by 2020.
Moreover, the Committee considers that the European Parliament deserves to play a stronger role in the appointment process of the Executive Director and introduced amendments in this respect, drawing on the example of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The Committee is also concerned about the fact that after more than 10 years there is still no headquarters agreement between Frontex and the Republic of Poland and it calls on the competent authorities to finalise such agreement as soon as possible.
In the other hand, according to parliamentary sources the proposal significantly reinforces Frontex’s regulatory and operational tasks and provides the Agency with an additional supervisory role but it doesn't amend the fundamental premise of operational cooperation at the external borders, reserving executive enforcement powers to Member States. However, according to the same sources, the concept of shared responsibility in the absence of shared accountability increases existing fundamental rights concerns.