Frontex and the future of EU Integrated Border System
Frontex will be a key actor to move from the area of cooperation to a future EU integrated borders control system.
The European Council adopted on 26-27 June 2014 the strategic guidelines for the legislative and operational planning in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice for the coming years. After the detailed programmes set out at The Hague and Stockholm, the current one has a more concise formulation than its predecessors, probably because it is generally considered that these guidelines will focus on implementation and evaluation of existing rules, particularly on migration and asylum, rather than putting new initiatives on the political agenda. This new more general approach should not, however, lead to the weakening of the efficacy of EU actions. Nevertheless political impetus is still needed to ensure the development of these policies.
Next steps in borders policy
The European Council highlights in its conclusions the instability in many parts of the world, as well as global and European demographic trends. These require the EU to have an efficient and well-managed migration, asylum and borders policy, guided by the Treaty principles of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility. This will also benefit the credibility of the Schengen area and mutual trust among Member States. It will require not only the modernisation of border management – the entry/exit system and registered travellers programme and supported by the new Agency for Large Scale IT Systems - but also the use of Frontex as an instrument of European solidarity in this area; reinforcing its operational assistance, in particular in support of Member States facing strong pressure at the external borders, and its reaction to rapid changes in migration flows, making full use of the new European Border Surveillance System EUROSUR, as the Council has stated in its conclusions.
On the other hand, the trio programme for the Italian, Latvian and Luxembourg Presidencies (until 31 December 2015) proposes policy coherence and institutional - as well as inter-agency (Europol, Eurojust, Frontex, EASO) - coordination in order to take full advantage of each body's competence and successfully incorporate the JHA external dimension in the Union's broader foreign policy.
The future role of FRONTEX
FRONTEX, as the EU border management body, is part of the (uncompleted) integrated borders control system. New steps can be taken. In that direction, the trio programme for the Italian, Latvian and Luxembourg Presidencies states that “a policy debate on the future development of FRONTEX, including the feasibility of a European system of border guards, [which] is expected to be launched, possibly towards the end of 2014.”
Frontex at the present time operates the European Border Guard Teams, and this proposal will certainly be a step forward in the integrated management of borders, beyond songs, badges and flags. If it is finally accepted, the mechanism could be an instrument for building up mutual trust, placing one’s own borders in the hands of an integrated system. Certainly, even though there is a common corpus of legislation (in asylum, in fact, a Common European Asylum System; and a number of pieces of EU legislation in migration leading to a more integrated approach), operational cooperation and a degree of solidarity between Member States, there is room for more integration in border control policies.
A border has always been a sign and symbol of sovereignty, and it is understandable that Member States should demonstrate reluctance towards a potential integration of border control in the hands of an EU institution. Moreover, border control is an issue related not only to the management of the flow of persons but also of goods, and therefore, customs. In this regard, the EU is already a uniform system of customs duties on imports. In a realistic way, the European Council is aware that this possibility of a future European system of border guards could be possible “in the context of the long-term development of Frontex”. The message is to take note that we are on the way to doing so.
José Luis Bazán