Tag Archives: LIBE

EP Study on Implementation of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Impact on Frontex, Europol, and EASO

The European Parliament Policy Dept. C has released a study requested by the LIBE Committee entitled: “Implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its Impact on EU Home Affairs Agencies: Frontex, Europol and the European Asylum Support Office.”  The study is authored by Prof. Elspeth Guild, Dr. Sergio Carrera, Mr Leonhard den Hertog, and Ms Joanna Parkin.  The study will be presented in the 3 October 2011 LIBE meeting.

Abstract:  “This study sets out to examine the impact and implementation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights with respect to three EU Home Affairs agencies: Frontex, Europol and EASO. It assesses the relevance of the EU Charter when evaluating the mandates, legal competences and practices of these agencies, particularly in the fields of external border control and the management of migration.  After identifying specific fundamental rights guaranteed in the EU Charter that are potentially put at risk by the actions of these three agencies, and judicial obstacles that prevent individuals from obtaining effective legal remedies in cases of alleged fundamental rights violations, we present a set of policy recommendations for the European and national parliaments.”

Excerpts from the 100+ page study:

“KEY FINDINGS

  • EU home affairs agencies have confirmed themselves as distinct forms of EU regulatory agency. Their scope of action and tasks are not fully predetermined and defined in their founding regulations, at times allowing for the flexible accommodation, and sometimes extension, of their competences to new domains on an ad hoc basis. The three agencies have been granted important operational tasks that go beyond mere ‘regulatory activities’. Yet their dominant framing as depoliticised ‘coordinators’ or ‘facilitators’ of Member State actions has increased their relative autonomy, in some cases preventing a proper democratic scrutiny of the nature and impact of their activities and evading questions of accountability, responsibility and liability in cases of alleged unlawful actions, including potential fundamental rights breaches and risks. These observations are particularly pronounced in the cases of Frontex and Europol. It remains to be seen the extent to which the functioning and activities of EASO will follow a similar pattern.
  • Certain activities performed by Frontex, Europol and EASO as foreseen in their legal remits or developed through informal (de facto) practices present a sensitive relationship with specific fundamental rights provisions foreseen in the EU Charter. This is particularly relevant as regards three categories of actions common to each agency: 1) operational activities, 2) the exchange and processing of information and, in the case of Frontex and Europol, personal data (and the subsequent uses of this information) and 3) relations, cooperation (including so-called ‘capacity building’) and exchange of information with third countries through working arrangements and ‘soft law’. Inter-agency cooperation between Frontex, Europol and potentially in the future EASO, further magnifies the scope, and opens up new venues for, breaches of fundamental rights.
  • The relationship between Frontex, Europol (and to some extent) EASO and fundamental rights is further strained by their ‘home affairs focus’ and the legacy of cross-pillarisation which affects their policies, practices and political ambitions. A conflation of irregular migration with ‘insecurity’ and ‘threat’ legitimises the adoption of coercive policies which, together with a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency, exacerbates the vulnerable status of individuals targeted by the actions of these agencies.
  • There is a profound ‘knowledge gap’ concerning the added value, nature and impact of the activities by Frontex, Europol and EASO on the ground, as well as their full compatibility or coherency with EU internal and external policy priorities and legal frameworks. This report reveals a severe lack of information and monitoring of their actions, especially those of an ‘operational’ nature, which lead to legal uncertainties and accountability gaps that put the agencies at odds with the EU Charter and general rule-of-law principles of the European legal regime.
  • Finally, there is an anachronistic relationship between the overly-politicised nature of some of these EU home affairs agencies as a result of pressures applied by certain EU Member States and the European institutions to demonstrate the practical application of ‘the principle of solidarity’ and ‘mutual trust-based cooperation’ at EU level, and their weak democratic and public accountability. It is paradoxical that, despite the political drivers which steer the activities of EU Home Affairs agencies, their framing as ‘technical’ rather than political actors prevents a full and plural debate and accountability of their actions.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation 1: A new ‘model of agency-building’ should be ensured and mainstreamed across current and future EU Home Affairs agencies. The model should act as a ‘standard setter’ against which the European Parliament and national parliaments can evaluate and scrutinise the performance and functioning of agencies, while still respecting agencies’ specific characteristics. Given the dynamic evolution of EU Home Affairs agencies, the model could be taken into account if and when the legal mandates of the agencies are opened for re-negotiation. The components and features of this model should include:

  • A more direct involvement of the European Parliament in the appointment of agency Executive Directors by requiring a binding approval from the Parliament for selected candidates.
  • A stronger representation of the European Commission on the Management Boards of agencies (a minimum of 5 Commission representatives, increased weighting of their votes and the granting of veto rights for certain fundamental rights sensitive issues.)
  • Advisory boards or ‘consultative forums’ should be established in all EU Home Affairs agencies as an integral part of their governance structure.
  • Time limits on the confidential status of documents pertaining to agency activities, which oblige the automatic release of such documents to the public within a set time frame should be put in place to promote transparency and public accountability.
  • Institutional structures for individuals to access effective legal remedies in cases of fundamental rights violations should be revised and developed.
  • Codes of conduct and comprehensive training in fundamental rights for all staff involved in agency activities, particularly operational actions, should be streamlined across all Home Affairs agencies.
  • Mechanisms to strengthen compliance with fundamental rights obligations on the ground should be included in the legal mandates of EU Home Affairs agencies: fundamental rights strategies and implementation plans, an in-house fundamental rights officer and independent monitor responsible for initiating disciplinary measures in case of misconduct.
  • To support internal accountability an independent Board of Appeals could be established composed of independent lawyers. Any challenged actions should be frozen while under consideration by the Board of Appeals.
  • EU Home Affairs agencies should have the competence to suspend or terminate activities if violations of fundamental rights occur in the course of those activities.
  • Clear legal definitions should be provided for key concepts related to agency tasks; agency actions should not exceed their legal remits and competences.
  • Comprehensive provisions on data protection should be integral to the legal mandates of EU Home Affairs agencies accompanied by independent supervisory bodies empowered to issue binding opinions.

Recommendation 2: The Inter-Institutional Working Group (IIWG) charged with identifying rules to support a global framework for regulatory agencies should explicitly recognise the fundamental rights-related accountability gaps identified by this report in the activities of EU Home Affairs agencies and take these into account it its final declaration.

Recommendation 3: A closer democratic scrutiny of agencies functioning, planning and work should be ensured through the creation of a permanent inter-parliamentary body or committee dealing specifically with regulatory agencies. The body should be run by the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee and include representatives from the corresponding committees of national parliaments.

Recommendation 4: In order to improve access to justice and effective remedies for individuals regardless of their nationality and/or location, subject to actions by EU Home Affairs agencies, a new branch of the Court of Justice should be established – an Agencies Tribunal – following the same format as the EU Civil Service Tribunal. This body would deal with admissibility claims and complaints of a legal and administrative nature against the agencies and national authorities participating in agencies’ operations and activities.

Recommendation 5: the Commission should have the competence to freeze Agency activities in cases of actual, suspected or imminent breaches of fundamental rights, while the legality of the case is being examined in detail. For such an ex ante procedure to be fully effective, careful attention should be paid to ensuring its overall objectivity, impartiality and democratic accountability. The procedure would be activated by the European Commission (on its own initiative or that of the European Parliament) on the basis of evidence provided by impartial actors such as the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights (FRA) or a new external network of independent and interdisciplinary experts/academics working in close cooperation with civil society organisations based in the different member states.

Recommendation 6: A new piece of secondary law should be adopted specifying the access to rights and to justice by third country nationals subject to new border and migration controls (including those taking place ‘extraterritorially’). The tasks and competences of the EU Home Affairs agencies call for more legal certainty. Their remits and activities and allocation of responsibilities should be clearly defined in law. Any experimental governance activities should be avoided in order to ensure respect for the principles of legal certainty and accountability.

Recommendation 7: Particular attention should be paid to the practical implementation of EASO’s mandate, given the particularly sensitive nature of some of the agency’s tasks from a fundamental rights viewpoint. Guaranteeing the right to asylum envisaged in Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights should constitute an explicit priority for EASO and the agency’s work should be focused first and foremost around this objective.

Recommendation 8: The fundamental rights sensitivities of Europol’s work and safeguards should be taken into account when Europol’s mandate is re-opened for negotiation in 2013. DG Justice should play an active role during the preparation of the Commission’s proposal for a Europol Regulation to conduct a fundamental rights proofreading of the new legislation. Moreover, the European Parliament should ensure that the new ‘model of agency-building’ proposed in Recommendation 1 of this report would be mainstreamed to Europol to the largest extent.

Recommendation 9: The European Parliament should call upon Frontex to no longer conduct any joint operation in the maritime territory of third states, as the consistency of this practice is not only questionable with respect to the rule of law principles of legal certainty and accountability, but it is also at odds with fundamental rights foreseen in the EU Charter.”

Click here for Study.

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New Study: Implementation of Article 80 TFEU on the principle of solidarity between MS in the field of border checks, asylum and immigration

The European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department C, Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, released a 120+ page study in April entitled “The Implementation of Article 80 TFEU on the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States in the field of border checks, asylum and immigration.

The study was made by Prof. Dr. Dirk Vanheule, Project Director, Dr. Joanne van Selm, and Dr. Christina Boswell and was prepared at the request of the LIBE committee.

ABSTRACT:  “The study assesses the scope and implications of Article 80 TFEU, which relates to the principle of solidarity in the field of Border Checks, Asylum and Immigration. The study analyses primary and secondary sources of European law in order to identify the implications of Article 80 TFEU in terms of obligations and jurisdiction. It also discusses the results of a questionnaire that was administered to senior public officials in the EU, collecting their views on the scope and possible mode of implementation of Article 80 TFEU. The study’s conclusions outline some practical solutions for the implementation of new solidarity mechanisms in the field of EU immigration and asylum policies.”

Click here for the full study.

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MEPs Express Concern Over Possible Changes to Schengen Rules

According to an EP press release, during Monday’s LIBE meeting, MEPs expressed concern over the “Commission’s announcement that it is considering a temporary reintroduction of checks at the EU’s internal borders.”

From the EP press release:

“‘Schengen governance is suffering too much from inter-governmentalism’, said the Commission representative [at the LIBE meeting], adding that the Commission would table a communication on the issue on 4 May. The Commission paper will seek to ‘replace the unilateral re-introduction of border controls by a Community mechanism’. This would enable the Commission temporarily to impose checks at national borders, in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort.  [Click on this link [DRAFT 15-04-2011] for a draft version of the Commission Communication on Migration.]

‘The decision would be taken collectively, and not unilaterally as is now the case’, said the Commission representative, pointing out that, at present, Member States’ decisions to restore internal border checks cannot be challenged before the European Court of Justice.

‘Schengen should not be weakened’, said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT), asking for ‘some precaution’ on this issue….

According to the Commission representative, the 4 May communication, to be unveiled ahead of the extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 12 May and of the European Council in June, will provide a long-term perspective for migration policies.

The communication will focus on the management of the Schengen area and propose ways to improve the administration of the visa system. It will also address the common asylum system, which needs to overcome the current impasse in the Council, and the ‘security and mobility partnership’….

‘This is not a Schengen problem, this is a social problem’ to do with migration, said Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE), adding that ‘I am bothered about the timing’ of these requests by Sarkozy and Berlusconi.

The ‘Council is not willing to deal with migration’, added Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL). Concerning the reintroduction of border controls, she called for a clear definition of ‘temporary’. Franziska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE), asked ‘Which are the specific cases and who decides what is an emergency or not?’…”

Click here for EP press release.

Click on this link [DRAFT 15-04-2011] for draft version of the Commission Communication on Migration.

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Update from Today’s LIBE Committee’s Discussions re Central Mediterranean

The Hungarian Presidency and LIBE have released summaries regarding today’s LIBE Committee meeting.  Here are some points from the two summaries:

  • Commissioner Malmström emphasized that, so far, migrants had not started coming to Europe from Libya, but the EU had to prepare for this possibility;
  • Frontex Director Laitinen made it clear that the region should not be seen as a whole, but as separate countries with separate problems;
  • Laitinen underlined that from Tunisia only economic migration could be seen so far, but for the moment, as Tunisian authorities have regained control of the migration flow, this had stopped, as well. Since 26 February, no migrants had arrived to Lampedusa.
  • Laitinen also stressed that Italy was not the only entry point for migrants from North-Africa. Greece should not be forgotten in this context.  Low-cost flights from North-Africa to Istanbul were operating, bringing many migrants who then were trying to enter the Schengen area through the Greek-Turkish border;
  • Laitinen said that the possibility of extending Hermes to address Malta’s needs was being examined. More money and staff might be needed if the current emergency persists;
  • MEPs urged Member States to accelerate work on the “asylum package” and stressed the need for solidarity as regards relocating migrants;
  • Malmström said that most of the current migration from Tunisia to Lampedusa appears to be for economic reasons;
  • Malmström said that “Frontex and Member States may not push away people in need of international protection”;
  • MEP Simon Busuttil (EPP, MT) said the three main priorities in Libya are halting violence, sending humanitarian aid and planning for a possible immigration emergency. “What if a mass influx turns into Europe, is there a plan in the drawer to be pull out if this happens?” “Member States show no appetite for relocation.”

Click here and here for the two articles.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia, Turkey

Live Coverage, 1 March, 09:00, LIBE Meeting re Situation in the Central Mediterranean

LIBE will reconvene today, 1 March, 09:00-10:30, to discuss “the situation in the central Mediterranean…. They will consider the democratisation process in the region and its impact on migration flows and EU immigration and asylum policy. In attendance: Hungarian Presidency representative, H.E. Peter Györkös, Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs and Ilkka Laitinen, Executive Director of Frontex, the EU border security agency.”

Click here for live coverage.

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LIBE Meets 28 Feb-1 March with Full Agenda

LIBE will meet on Monday and Tuesday with a full and timely agenda.  I’ll try to post summaries of several of the meeting documents which are now posted on the EP LIBE Meeting Document page later today or Sunday.

Here are some of the agenda items to be voted on or considered:

28 Feb. 2011, 15.00  (room PHS, Hemicycle)

Item 4. Adoption of Draft Opinion – Migration Flows arising from Instability: Scope and Role of the EU Foreign Policy

[Frenzen’s note – the draft opinion on which the vote will be taken is dated 14 January 2011 and was prepared before the current situation in North Africa became apparent].

Click here for Draft Opinion and here for Amendments 1-53.

Item 12. Consideration of Amendments – Minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast)

Click here for Draft Report  and here for Amendments 54 – 286.

Click here for “Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing international protection.”

Item 15. Consideration of Working Document – European Union’s Internal Security Strategy

Click here for Part 1 of the Working Document on the European Union’s internal security strategy and here for Part 2.

1 March 2011, 9.00 (Meeting with the Council and Commission – N.B. this part of the meeting will be held in meeting room JAN 4 Q 2)

Item 17. The democratic process in the central Mediterranean area, the impact on migration fluxes and the EU immigration and asylum policy.

Exchange of views in the presence of:

  • The Hungarian Presidency, H.E. Peter GYÖRKÖS, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the EU
  • European Commission representative (name to be confirmed)
  • Mr. Ilkka LAITINEN, Executive Director of Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the EU)

No documents for this item have been posted.

Click here for the Full Agenda of the LIBE meeting and here for the Meeting Documents page.

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Frontex Begins Consultations for Emergency Joint Operation –2010 Frontex Sea Border Rule Should Govern Joint Operation

The European Voice reports that Frontex began consultations yesterday with member states to identify what equipment and personnel they will commit to a planned joint operation with Italy to deter migrants seeking to leave North Africa. “Naval vessels, surveillance aircraft and enhanced radar tracking are likely to be deployed….”

Assuming an emergency joint operation is deployed in the coming days, it may to some extent simply be a revival of Frontex’s Joint Operation Nautilus (slated to be renamed Operation Chronos).  Less than two weeks ago, on 4 February Malta for the second year running announced that it would not host or participate in Operation Nautilus this year due to the success of Italy’s push-back agreement with Libya which eliminated the movement of migrants in the Central Mediterranean.

Malta, however, also likely refused to host the Frontex mission due to the 2010 guidelines governing Frontex enforcement operations at sea which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances.  The validity of the Frontex sea border rule is currently under review by the European Court of Justice.  The legal challenge to the rule was brought by the European Parliament.  Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil initiated the challenge within the LIBE Committee.  It will be interesting to see what role Malta will be willing to play in any new emergency joint operation.  Even though the Frontex sea border rule is under review by the ECJ, the referral clearly requested the ECJ “to preserve the effects of the measure until a new legislative act has been adopted.”  The rule therefore remains in effect.

Click here for EV article.

Click here for the Council decision on the surveillance of  sea external borders (the Sea Border Rule).

Click here, here, here, here, and here for previous posts on the sea border rule and the ECJ challenge.

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