quarta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2015
Countries balk at EU border force proposal
Countries balk at EU border force proposal
Poland describes the plan to deploy guards even if nations don’t ask for the help as ‘astounding.’
By MAÏA DE LA BAUME 12/15/15, 6:10 PM CET
The European Commission unveiled a controversial proposal Tuesday for a new EU border force with the power to intervene “in urgent situations” if it believes countries are failing to guard their external frontiers effectively.
But the measure, which will be a major topic of discussion at summit of EU leaders later this week, is already drawing criticism from some countries that see it as an encroachment on their sovereign powers.
The proposal is part of a wide-ranging set of measures put forward by the Commission to reinforce the EU’s external borders and protect the passport-free Schengen area, which has been under increasing pressure as an estimated 1.5 million migrants have crossed into the EU this year.
The November 13 attacks in Paris heightened concerns about the effectiveness of Schengen border controls after it emerged that suspected terrorists traveled freely between Europe and Syria beforehand.
The proposed measure will create a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, built from the existing EU border agency Frontex and member states’ border authorities.
With a pool of up to 1,500 border guards — provided by EU countries — it would be able to intervene “even if there is no request for assistance from the member state concerned or where that member state considers that there is no need for additional intervention.”
Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, in a speech to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, said the plan “should help to correct many of the weaknesses that have hindered Frontex over the years.”
The aim of the new measures, Timmermans said, will be to “prevent uncontrollable situations” and “to strengthen our collective ability to deal with crisis situations where a section of the external borders suddenly comes under strong pressure.”
According to the proposal, the new European Border and Coast Guard would assess whether a country is adequately policing its external borders, and make recommendations on “corrective measures to address the existing gaps.” If the country fails to take measures, the Commission would be able to adopt an “implementing decision” enabling the agency to act on the ground, even if the country doesn’t ask for help.
Some countries are already voicing opposition to the idea of giving the Commission authority to intervene in emergency situations.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Monday that the plan to upgrade Frontex to “a structure that is independent of member states is astounding. There would be an undemocratic structure reporting to nobody knows who.”
France and Germany have been largely supportive of the idea. Earlier this month, their interior ministers, Bernard Cazeneuve and Thomas de Maizière, sent a letter to the Commission saying that “in exceptional circumstances, Frontex should also take initiative to deploy under its own responsibility rapid intervention teams at its external borders.”
Italy is also backing the measure. Sandro Gozi, the country’s under-secretary for European Affairs, told reporters Tuesday that his country was in favor of the creation of an EU border force but wouldn’t comment further.
But other countries heavily affected by the influx of migrants were more critical.
Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Kotzias accused EU officials of “rushing” the proposal.
“The problems have to be resolved in a democratic manner, within the framework of the treaties,” Kotzias said. “We have said that the process and regulation for Frontex can certainly change, but any change must be in line with articles 72 and 79 of the Treaty on the European Union, which prioritizes each member state’s sovereign interests with regard to defending its security and the immigration issue.”
Sweden is also among the countries likely to reject the Commission’s proposal.
“Border control is the competence for the member states, and it’s hard to say that there is a need to impose that on member states forcefully,” Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said earlier this month at a meeting of EU interior ministers.
The minister’s spokesperson said Tuesday the Commission’s proposal would now be analyzed by Stockholm, but “the general skepticism towards such plans hasn’t changed.”
Sweden has been among the EU countries most affected by the migration crisis, and says it can no longer accept new refugees because of the strain on resources. The Commission on Tuesday said it had granted Stockholm a one-year suspension from its obligations under the EU’s refugee relocation scheme because of the sharp increase in asylum-seeker arrivals in the country.
Members of the European Parliament offered a mixed bag of reactions to the proposal during a debate on Tuesday afternoon.
Austrian MEP Angelika Mlinar said, “I’m convinced at this time that member states have to transfer some responsibility to the EU level in order to increase the security of citizens.”
But Swedish MEP Malin Björk said that when she looked at the proposal, “I did get a shiver down my back.”
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU justice and home affairs commissioner, defended the proposal, saying the new agency goes “beyond Frontex but we don’t replace member states’ responsibilities and definitely not their sovereignty.”
Emmet Livingstone, Giulia Paravicini and Hans von der Burchard contributed to this article.
This article was updated to add details of the new agency’s name.