The European Parliament has approved new legislation which strengthens the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, known as Frontex, by supplying it with extra staff and equipment.
The plan is to increase the number of operational staff to 10,000 by 2027 and focus on strengthening the region’s borders. The movement was passed with 403 votes in favour, 162 against, and 44 abstentions.
The new regulations give Frontex a broader mandate to support EU member states, especially in regards to border control and cooperation with third countries. The European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur) with being incorporated into Frontex’s framework as part of this initiative.
A press release on the issue stated: “This corps, to be established gradually, will consist of up to 10,000 operational staff by 2027. It will include operational staff members from Frontex, as well as from the member states either under long term secondments or deployed for a short time, and a reserve for a rapid reaction which will be kept until the end of 2024”.
Strong border security: the main objective
The MEP who proposed the regulations, Roberta Metsola, said that border security was the main concern of every individual she met since her election as a representative of the Maltese and Gozitan people.
“I wanted a law which is fair with those in need of protection, firm with those who do not, and harsh with those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable. We can only address security and the challenges of migration if we keep this principle in mind,” she said.
The European Council adopted the proposal on November 8. Its subsequent press release stated that Frontex will have a standing corps at its disposal that we will ensure coherent management of the EU’s borders and will enable it to adequately respond to crises.
Maria Ohisalo, the Minister of the Interior of Finland, stated that the well-functioning management of external borders is essential in maintaining a fully functioning Schengen Area and the efficient and humane management of migration.
“These new rules will allow Frontex to play a bigger role in supporting Member States in border control, on returns and in cooperating with third countries,” she said.
The expansion of Frontex
The EU established Frontex in 2004 as part of an effort to improve the integrated management of the region’s external borders. In 2017, Frontex was expanded and become the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Its funding and resources have increased significantly since its birth. The European council has supported a budget of €101.4 million for 2020 which is 32.4% more than the 2019 budget. This increase is to to fund the new standing corps.
The increase in the number of standing corps will increase incrementally. There will be 5,000 operational staff by 2022 and 10,000 by 2027. The standing corps will consist of border and coast guards employed by Frontex and staff seconded by EU countries.
Frontex currently employs 1,600 border guards across the EU so the new plans represent a vast expansion. A recent recruitment campaign read: “For the first time Frontex will have its owned uniformed service, working under the banner of the European Union.”
The number of anti-immigration governments of EU member states has been growing in recent years. Populist power shifts in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Poland have changed the makeup of the European Parliament, and strengthened the calls to bolster Frontex.