Friday, 1 July 2011

In the EU, no independent monitoring of joint border operations

zamknąć frontex (close frontex)Image by noborder network via Flickr
Source: ECRE

Ahead of the European Council meeting today, the European Commission, the European Parliament (EP) and Council of the EU reached a political agreement on the review of the mandate of the EU Border Agency Frontex.

Frontex will now be able to acquire its own equipment, to call all deployed teams "European Border Guard Teams", and to transfer personal data of those persons suspected of being involved in cross-border criminal activities to EU law enforcement agencies. Frontex will have also a stronger role in joint return operations. Regarding fundamental rights, a Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights will be established and a Fundamental Rights Officer will be appointed within Frontex.

Amnesty International (European Institutions Office) has welcomed the clarification of the applicable fundamental rights framework to Frontex operations but regrets the missed opportunity to ensure more transparency and accountability with regard to border management practices.
"Unfortunately, some crucial elements have been sacrificed by the European Parliament for the sake of reaching a deal. Contrary to what the Commission had proposed, there will be no requirement for “independent” monitoring of joint return operations and for any reports to be shared with the Commission or otherwise be made public."
"The Agency will not be able to invite independent observers to participate in Frontex operations, unless Member States agree – which is not very likely," said Anneliese Baldaccini, from Amnesty International.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström welcomed the agreement, confident that “this proposal will ensure that, in the performance of their tasks, members of Frontex teams fully respect fundamental rights and human dignity, including the principle of non-refoulement”.

The agreement still needs to be formally approved by the European Parliament, most likely in September, and then by the Council after the EP's plenary vote.
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