Amending FRONTEX for a credible control of the EU borders
Relevant changes in the Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders will improve a common answer to the new challenges.
Within the framework of the so-called trialogue, the Council of the European Union adopted last 10th October the new amended FRONTEX Regulation. The text gives a positive answer to the special needs of those Member States facing specific or disproportionate migration pressures, and it offers fair and realistic treatment for the influx of migrants coming into Europe mainly through its southern borders. The cooperative system (FRONTEX and Member States concerned) is also good practice based on the needs and possibilities of each particular country, leaving room for bilateral cooperation between EU Member States and third-countries (including countries of transit).
Other important positive aspects have been included in the text, such as the training of those who participate in operational activities, in relevant Union and international law, including in fundamental rights and access to international protection and guidelines for the purpose of identifying persons seeking protection; the respect of the principle of non-refoulement; a particular concern regarding the special needs of vulnerable persons; the creation of a Consultative Forum on fundamental rights; the development of a Code of Conduct, and a better defined framework for processing personal data thus satisfying the requirements of Regulation 45/2001.
A wider right to be informed has been recognised by the European Parliament (EP) in different areas such as: risk analysis, arrangements between EU agencies and bodies and international or other relevant organisations, bilateral agreements with third-countries, deployment of FRONTEX liaison officers, and technical aspects.
On the other hand, the frequent “terminological tension” between the Council and the EP on the use of the expression “illegal” or “irregular” respectively, in immigration issues (and in this amended Regulation, too) could be easily avoided: while an undocumented person in an “irregular” situation, some migrants in “irregular” circumstances (fortunately, only few of them) are linked to criminal activities such as trafficking on human beings, drugs and even terrorism. As a matter of fact, in its recent Report entitled “The EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2011”, EUROPOL reminds us that: “The current and future flow of immigrants originating from North Africa could have an influence on the EU’s security situation. Individuals with terrorist aims could easily enter Europe amongst the large numbers of immigrants.” In this context the new FRONTEX will have to cooperate with the future EUROSUR (European Border Surveillance System), a true ‘system of systems’, which “should support the Member States in reaching full situational awareness on the situation at their external borders and increase the reaction capability of their law enforcement authorities.” This will be a challenge and an opportunity to improve the EU external borders control and to manage immigration influxes, respecting the natural rights of immigrants and societies. When welcoming the European Parliament's support for the new FRONTEX, Commissioner Malmström strengthened the need to balance both aspects, stating that: "travel flows are increasing and security threats need to be addressed in the most effective manner. The EU needs to commit to continuous improvements and be ready to adapt to new challenges and an ever changing reality, while fully respecting the rights of people fleeing war and persecution and looking to Europe for protection." The new framework and instruments of the Agency do not prevent each Member State from taking its responsibilities in every field of its competence as, for example, conditions of detention.
The fruitful implementation of this new FRONTEX will need, therefore, efficiency in the fulfilment of their important aims and at the same time sensitivity to the human dimension of its tasks, particularly in the context of certain dramatic situations involving forced displaced people, or those concerning vulnerable persons.
José Luis Bazán