quarta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2015

EU unveils border force plan in new effort to stem migrant crisis

EU unveils border force plan in new effort to stem migrant crisis

Duncan Robinson and Peter Spiegel in Brussels
December 15, 2015 2:31 pm

The new agency, called the European Border and Coast Guard, would have 1,000 permanent staff and be able to call on a pool of 1,500 additional personnel, who could be sent to shore up porous borders in a crisis.
The agency would ultimately have an annual budget of €322m, or more than double the €143m allocated for Frontex, the EU’s current, largely powerless border agency.
The plan must still be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament but a commission official said it already enjoyed the backing of France and Germany, the two largest EU members. Both are also participants in Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel zone. The UK and Ireland, which do not participate in Schengen, would not be covered by the plan.
Frans Timmermans, the commission vice-president who has spearheaded Brussels’ response to the refugee crisis, defended the plan to give the agency the ability to trump national objections, saying such powers were unlikely to be invoked.
“I see this as a safety net, as the ultimate measure that might be possible, theoretically,” Mr Timmermans said. “My impression is most member states who get in to difficulty would gladly accept help.”
The agency was proposed as part of a new package of legislation that represents Brussels’ latest effort to stem the influx of refugees from the Middle East and north Africa.
That effort has gained urgency as the sheer number of migrants deepened EU member states’ fear of losing control of their borders. The recent Paris attacks have also highlighted longstanding worries that Schengen could be exploited by terrorists who, after breaching the zone’s outer frontier, could then travel freely across Europe’s national borders.
As part of the package, the commission also proposed a voluntary scheme of “humanitarian admission”, which would see tens of thousands of migrants plucked from camps in Turkey and resettled across willing EU member states.
Officials made clear the admission programme would be cut if Ankara did not work to halt the uncontrolled refugee flow.
The number of people making the trip from Turkey to Greece dropped sharply last month, probably because of the colder weather. Still, more than 108,000 people were detected entering the EU via this route — an all-time high for November.
Frontex chief welcomes plan for more powerful EU border force
Migrants and refugees, who spent the night outdoors, are escorted by Slovenian soldiers and police officers as they walk towards a refugee camp after crossing the Croatian-Slovenian border near Rigonce, Slovenia, on October 26, 2015
Head of body entrusted with guarding Europe’s border argues move should have been made sooner
Despite Mr Timmermans’ insistence that the new agency’s supranational powers would be rarely used, the proposal appears tailor-made for Greece, which for months resisted EU demands that it invite in Frontex and other EU agencies to help contain the influx.
Athens only complied in recent weeks after several senior EU officials threatened to suspend Greece from the Schengen agreement.
Under the new proposal, a weighted majority of EU countries could vote to override Greek objections and send in assistance — even if Athens voted against the plan in Brussels.
Officials acknowledged giving powers to an EU agency to send in guards — some of whom could be armed and empowered with the right to force migrants into registration centres — over the objections of a national government could lead to tensions.
chart: Refugee arrivals to Greece
But they insisted EU law would allow them to impose such a decision by a weighted majority vote of other EU countries, and that the country facing the emergency would be legally bound to comply with the demand.
“It’s the loyal duty of the member state concerned to implement the decision,” said one European Commission official involved in drafting the plan. “If the member state does not co-operate, we will have a practical problem, indeed. But we assume their loyal co-operation.”
According to a 10-page summary of the proposal adopted by the European Commission at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, such a deployment would only occur in “urgent situations”, including during a “disproportionate increase in the pressure” at a country’s external borders “where the national border guard authorities . . . are not able to cope”.

At first, the agency would push the problem country to take “timely corrective action” on its own or as a joint operation with others. But if “deficiencies” continued, Brussels could issue a directive for guards to be deployed that would be submitted to a technical committee made up of representatives of all 28 national governments, which would then have to approve the decision — but only under the EU’s weighted majority voting rules.

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