4 July 2016
The European Parliament just adopted with a strong majority the proposal for a new European Coast and Border Guard.
The European Parliament just adopted with a strong majority the proposal for a new European Coast and Border Guard. Flemish MEP Helga Stevens played as a shadow rapporteur a central role for the ECR Group in the negotiations. Stevens considers this strengthened EU Frontex Border Agency as an essential element to limit the asylum flow to Europe, but she also wants the EU to determine a maximum number of refugees they want to take in.
‘Protecting our external borders is really key within the broader asylum strategy,’ Stevens says. ‘Europe is finally starting to understand we must first take control of the numbers of migrants coming in, before we start creating more legal migration channels. This EU Border and Coast Guard can provide assistance in helping countries gain back control, where they are overwhelmed or failing. In order to ensure the sovereign rights of Member states, but also to ensure that decisive action can be taken in crisis situations, the competence to recommend action lies with the Member States in the Council, rather than with the Commission. We all know that the Commission is very slow in making decisions and very reluctant to trigger sanctions. Therefore, the ECR successfully pushed for the Council to be the central decision maker, rather than the Commission.’
The agreement on this new European Coast and Border Guard also includes a continuous monitoring and sanction mechanism, which will keep an eye on the readiness and capacity of frontline Member States like Greece or Italy. ‘That way, we are much less likely to experience a crisis. If a crisis does occur, the new agency will be able to step in since it will have its own equipment and resources. In addition it can count on a pool of resources from Member States. Think of ships, border guards and other assigned personnel. Moreover, if for instance Greece doesn’t want the EU Border and Coast Guard on its territory to help with registering asylum seekers, other EU Member States can close their internal borders, to put economic and political pressure on that state to comply with its commitments.’
Except for a better protection of the EU external borders, this upgrade of the Frontex agency will also play a key role in returning failed asylum seekers by assisting with returns, for example to Turkey. But more work needs to be done, according to Stevens: ‘The next step is basically to conclude deals with countries around the Mediterranean, as we did with Turkey, and have ambitious and effective readmission and return agreements with third countries such as Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco. Accelerated procedures will determine which asylum seekers already got a safe haven in countries like Turkey. Only genuine refugees, who didn’t find solace in any of the countries they passed through, may apply for asylum in the EU. People who were safe in a third-country, need to be returned from the border, with the assistance of the border and coast guard agency, under its expanded mandate.’
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