Tag Archives: European Council

Via Statewatch: Non-public Crisis Management Concept document – EU plan for CSDP operation to disrupt migrant smugglers in Libya

The non-public Crisis Management Concept document outlining the EU plan for a CSDP operation to disrupt migrant smugglers in Libya has been made available via Statewatch. See p. 6, Section IV, for the military operation plans. (Also available here.)

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Migration Policy Centre – Policy Brief: “Drowned Europe”

Drowned Europe“, policy brief by Philippe FARGUES and Anna DI BARTOLOMEO, Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, Florence.

ABSTRACT:
The drowning of 800 migrants, 19 April 2015, after the capsizing of a smuggling boat, triggered responses from across Europe. But when EU leaders met four days later, the news-cycle had moved on and the European Council, 23 April, gave a disappointing response. The 28 agreed to scale up their joint search-and-rescue efforts at sea to the more substantial efforts of what Italy has achieved alone in the last year. There were, also, a handful of other minor actions. Mr Junker, President of the Commission, lamented that the EU should be more ambitious. He was right, in as much as the EU meeting will not sustainably curb the deadly trends we have seen in the Mediterranean in recent years.

2015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 12015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Fig 22015-April_MPI Policy Brief_Drowned Europe_Tab 1

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Official Statement: Special meeting of the European Council, 23 April 2015

Full text:

“1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a) rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least tripling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX. We welcome the commitments already made by Member States which will allow to reach this objective in the coming weeks;

Fighting traffickers in accordance with international law

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers;

d) at the same time, the High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect;

e) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

f) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

g) reinforce our political cooperation with African partners at all levels in order to tackle the cause of illegal migration and combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The EU will raise these issues with the African Union and the key countries concerned, with whom it will propose the holding of a summit in Malta in the coming months;

h) step up cooperation with Turkey in view of the situation in Syria and Iraq;

i) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

j) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

k) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

l) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation and the implementation of EU and national readmission agreements with third countries, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin and transit, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

m) while respecting the right to seek asylum, set up a new return programme for the rapid return of illegal migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility

n) rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States, thereby ensuring common European standards under existing legislation;

o) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between all Member States on a voluntary basis;

p) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing;

q) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, offering places to persons qualifying for protection.

4. The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The Presidency and the Commission will present next week a roadmap setting out work up to June.

5. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.”

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Libya Group With Control Over Tripoli and Libya’s Western Coast Says It Will “Confront” Unilateral EU Attacks on People Smuggler Sites

Libya Dawn, “[t]he group controlling Libya’s coastal capital Tripoli [and the Mediterranean coastal areas to the east and west of Tripoli] says it will ‘confront’ any unilateral European Union moves to attack sites used by people smugglers, urging the [EU] to consult it over plans to deal with the migration crisis.” (Click here for Guardian article-reporting based on Times of Malta interview with the group’s foreign minister.)

The political and security situation in Libya is complicated. And while migrant boats tend to depart from areas around Tripoli because the area is closer to Lampedusa and Malta, boats leave from eastern areas of Libya as well. If the EU does end up taking military action in Libya, it will necessarily engage with different militias and political groups.

Libya Situation Map mid-April 2015 – Map by @arabthomness.

2015-April Libya Situation Map

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Post Meeting Remarks from Council President Tusk: EU to destroy smugglers’ boats in line with int’l law; triple resources for Frontex Operation Triton; seek better co-operation with countries of origin and transit; coordinate resettlement of more refugees

Remarks by President Donald Tusk following the special European Council meeting on migratory pressures in the Mediterranean – 23/04/2015, 22:00

Full Text:

“Good evening. Today, we discussed the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean at the highest political level. Saving the lives of innocent people is the number one priority. But saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea. It is also about stopping the smugglers and addressing irregular migration.

Let me be clear. Europe did not cause this tragedy. But that does not mean we can be indifferent. We are facing a difficult summer and we need to be ready to act.

Therefore, leaders have agreed four priority areas for action.
First, leaders have asked the High Representative to propose actions in order to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels before they can be used. Naturally, this will be in line with international law and respect for human rights. We will step up co-operation against smuggling networks by working through Europol, and by deploying immigration officers to third countries.

Second, we have agreed to triple the resources available to Triton, our border mission in the Central Mediterranean, and to enhance its operational capability. The mission will continue to carry out its mandate and respond to distress calls where necessary. I am happy to announce that leaders have already pledged significantly greater support, including many more vessels, aircraft and experts, and money.

Third, we need to limit irregular migration flows and to discourage people from putting their lives at risk. This means better co-operation with the countries of origin and transit, especially the countries around Libya.

Finally, we will do more on refugee protection. The European Union will help front-line Member States under pressure and co-ordinate the resettlement of more people to Europe on a voluntary basis, and with an option for emergency relocation. For those who do not qualify as refugees, we will operate an effective returns policy.
Leaders had no illusions that we would solve this international human emergency today. Therefore, we have tasked the Commission, the Council and the High Representative to step up their work based on what we have now agreed. This issue remains our priority and the European Council will come back to it in June.

As a final remark, let me repeat that the European Union is completely opposed to the death penalty. It cannot be the answer to drug trafficking. I am referring here to Mr Atlaoui, the French citizen who has been condemned by the Indonesian authorities. Thank you.”

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Frontex Prepared to Immediately Expand Air Surveillance

Frontex Press Statement:

“Frontex is looking forward to implement the conclusions of the European Council to be held this afternoon in Brussels and has already started preparing the implementation of the Home Affairs/Foreign Affairs Council held in Luxemburg on Monday, 20 April, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said.

‘My proposal is to increase as an immediate step air surveillance in the Mediterranean Sea south of Italy and Malta in addition to the vessels currently deployed, which is aimed at enhancing search and rescue capacities in the area,’ Leggeri said.

Leggeri has suggested increasing the aerial assets taking part in the Frontex-coordinated Triton operation also following two incidents when people smugglers have used weapons to reclaim boats following search and rescue operations in which vessels taking part in Triton were involved.

‘Assets co-funded by the agency have helped save thousands of lives in the Mediterranean. Frontex will continue within its mandate to do everything it can to fulfil this responsibility,’ Leggeri said.”

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US Accidentally Kills Italian and American Hostages in Carefully Targeted Surgical Drone Strike; EU Poised to Approve “Surgical” Military Strikes in Libya to Save Migrants

President Obama admitted today that the US had accidentally killed two Al Qaeda hostages, an Italian and an American, in a drone strike earlier this year. Obama said that before the military strike was authorised the US had conducted “hundreds of hours of surveillance on an al-Qaeda compound that led officials to believe there were no civilians present.”Giovanni Lo Porto and Warren Weinstein were killed in January. The information was only made public today.

The European Council’s pending approval of “surgical” and carefully planned strikes in Libya on boats that could be used by people smugglers, if approved and carried out, will in all likelihood result in the killing of innocent persons as today’s admission by Obama demonstrates.

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Text of Draft European Council Statement (via Statewatch)

From Statewatch, here is the text of the Draft European Council Statement that will be considered today:

DRAFT EUROPEAN COUNCIL STATEMENT

1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:

Strengthening our presence at sea

a)rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least doubling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX; [p.m.: welcome pledges]

Fighting traffickers

b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;

c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers. The High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect, in accordance with international law;

d) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows

e) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes in order to prevent potential migrants from gaining access to Mediterranean shores, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;

f) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;

g) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;

h) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;

i) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;

j) set up a new return programme for the rapid return of irregular migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity

k) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection;

l) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between Member States;

m) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing.

4.The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive EU approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.

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Recent UN Security Council Statements on Libya and Migrants

The special meeting of the European Council will occur later today. Based on various press reports, it seems that the EU will decide to pursue several courses of actions in response to the situation in the Mediterranean, including taking steps – presumably by military force – to identify, capture and destroy migrant boats in Libya before the boats are used by smugglers. HR Federica Mogherini will reportedly be instructed to seek authorisation for the military strikes from the UN. (Click here (IT) and here (EN) for articles)  (Here is the Draft European Council Statement via Statewatch.)

The most recent UN Security Council resolution on Libya (Resolution 2213) was adopted on 27 March 2015; the Resolution extended the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 September 2015. The Resolution also took note of, among other matters, the dire situation faced by migrants in Libya and called on the Libyan government to promote and protect “the human rights of all persons in Libya, particularly those of African migrants and other foreign nationals.”

On 21 April, after the most recent migrant boat accident, the Security Council released a Press Statement regarding the boat accident and “expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants…”

The press statement is not a formal statement from the Security Council, but may provide some limited insight into how members of the Security Council view the relationship between the flow of migrant boats and a possible threat to international peace and security and how the Security Council might respond to the EU request.

Full Text of the 21 April 2015 Press Statement:

“Security Council Press Statement on Recent Maritime Tragedy in Mediterranean Sea

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Dina Kawar (Jordan):

The members of the Security Council deplored the recent maritime tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea that resulted in hundreds of casualties, and extended their deepest condolences to all those affected and to their families.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the implications for regional stability posed by transnational organized crime and illicit activities such as the smuggling of migrants, condemned and deplored the said acts and underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

The members of the Security Council called for the full implementation by State Parties of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The members of the Security Council expressed their strong support to countries in the region affected by the smuggling of migrants and emphasized the need to step up coordination of international efforts in order to strengthen a global response to this common challenge, and in order to protect these vulnerable migrants from being victimized by human traffickers.

The members of the Security Council urged all Member States, including countries of origin and transit, to cooperate with each other and with relevant international and regional organizations, including the IOM [International Organization for Migration], in addressing illicit migration flows, and dismantling smuggling networks in the region.

In that regard, the members of the Security Council urged all States to comply with their applicable obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law.

For information media. Not an official record.”

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The EU’s Proposed Plan to Destroy Migrant Boats in Libya Must be Rejected by the European Council

A plan for EU Member States to capture or destroy the boats used by people smugglers in the Mediterranean is one of ten possible courses of action that will be considered during the Extraordinary European Council Meeting on the Situation in the Mediterranean that will be held on 23 April.

The boat destruction proposal should be rejected for multiple reasons. There is no basis in law for the proposal and it would endanger lives of innocent people including migrants and fishermen, among others. It would certainly have little effect on its intended target, the people smugglers.

EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos described the plan, which has been recommended by the Foreign Affairs Council which met on 20 April, as a civil-military operation which would “capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers.” Avramopoulos reportedly compared the proposed EU boat destruction plan to Operation ATALANTA, the EU’s maritime operation against piracy off Somalia, saying that Atalanta “should inspire us for new operations against smugglers in the Mediterranean.”

As is always the case, the specific details of the proposed plan matter. There are situations where the destruction of a migrant boat under certain circumstances may be perfectly legal and otherwise appropriate. For example after a rescue operation when migrants have been safely removed from an unflagged and unseaworthy vessel, it may be appropriate for that vessel to be destroyed at sea rather than taking it in tow or leaving it adrift and thereby creating a navigational hazard. In such circumstances, there is no reason for an EU coast guard vessel, after migrants have been transferred from a migrant boat, to stand by and allow smugglers to take possession of the now empty migrant boat.

But if the EU boat destruction plan were to authorise the use of armed force to capture or destroy a smuggling boat at sea, particularly in the face of armed resistance from people smugglers, or if it were to authorise the destruction of boats at anchor in Libyan harbours, it is difficult to imagine how such a plan could be carried without endangering the lives of migrants and fisherman and thereby violating international humanitarian and human rights law.

Frontex and Italian patrol boats have already experienced armed threats at sea during rescue operations. One situation occurred on 13 April when armed people smugglers fired into the air to recover an empty migrant boat after an Italian tugboat and the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Týr deployed by Frontex had rescued a group of migrants.  The Frontex vessel did not engage the people smugglers with force and allowed the smugglers to return to Libya with the empty migrant boat. If Frontex vessels or coast guard vessels were now to be called upon to use some level of appropriate force to prevent such incidents, rescue operations would be delayed, further complicated, and the rescued migrants would be placed in danger.

In regard to the possible destruction of boats at anchor in a Libyan harbour, the EU cannot engage in the proposed civil-military operation without having a legal basis to do so. One possible source of authority would be the invocation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter by the UN Security Council, but this would require the finding that the flow of migrant boats constitutes a threat to international peace and security. While the security situation in Libya or Syria might well constitute such a threat, the large scale movement of migrants by people smugglers does not.

Chapter VII has of course been invoked to authorise the EU Operation ATALANTA after the Security Council authorised of the use of force off Somalia in international waters and in Somalian territorial waters (as well as within Somalian territory). But the legal basis for Operation ATALANTA has no relevance to the proposed EU boat destruction plan. The suppression of piracy in international waters is authorised and governed by specialized international law and customary international practice relating to the suppression of piracy. There is no equivalent basis in international law for the suppression of people smuggling.

Chapter VII was likewise invoked in 2011 to authorise the use of force by NATO in Libya. The Security Council again made the necessary determination that the situation in Libya at the time was a threat to international peace. Among the factors referenced by the Security Council in Resolution 1973 was the plight of refugees and foreign workers who were subject to violence and who were forced to flee Libya. The resolution praised Tunisia and Egypt for protecting the fleeing refugees and called on the international community to support the efforts. It would be repugnant if today the ongoing violence in Libya was somehow used as a legal basis for a use of force which would serve to trap and endanger migrants, rather than making them safer.

In addition to the serious legal questions relating to the use of force to capture and destroy smugglers’ boats, there are serious practical concerns. Take the example of the unprecedented boat disaster and the 900 deaths that occurred earlier this week. One of the likely reasons for the massive death toll was the large number of persons who were locked below the main deck of the boat. What precautions would prevent the destruction of a suspected smuggling vessel at anchor with hundreds of people below deck and out of sight? Would the EU boat destruction plan require that any capture or destruction of a suspected smuggling boat be carried out by deploying EU military personnel on the ground in Libya with the resulting ability to more closely inspect a vessel before its destruction? Or would the plan permit destruction of a suspected smuggling boat by armed drones or military aircraft? If the destruction could occur through the use of aircraft, people will be killed, and it is more likely that those who will be killed will be migrants or innocent fisherman and not the people smugglers.

The easiest targets for destruction will be the larger fishing vessels that are being used by the people smugglers. But not so long ago the smuggling boats of choice were the Zodiacs and other large or medium–sized inflatable boats powered by outboard engines. This type of boat can be easily stored in vehicles or storage buildings and quickly moved into the water when needed. It would be an easy tactical shift on the part of the people smugglers to resume the use of inflatables if the larger fishing vessels were no longer obtainable.

The European Council needs to take new and significant steps to respond to this crisis. A focus on people smugglers should certainly be something that is addressed, but while the people smugglers are taking advantage of the crisis, they are not the cause. The EU response needs to instead focus on expanded search and rescue (i.e. Mare Nostrum plus – not Operation Triton plus) and creating alternative safe paths for people to seek protection in the EU or in other appropriate countries. The boat destruction plan should be rejected.

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EU Mediterranean States Oppose Provisions of Proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation Relating to Rescue and Disembarkation

[16 Oct. UPDATE: The document from the six states opposing the proposed Regulation is available here.]

One week ago Commissioner Cecilia Malmström called for an “extensive Frontex search and rescue operation that would cover the Mediterranean from Cyprus to Spain.” Yesterday the ANSA news service reported that all six EU Mediterranean states (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, France and Spain) have voiced opposition to the proposed Frontex Sea Borders Regulation (COM(2013) 197 final) and specifically to Articles 9 and 10 relating to “Search and Rescue Situations” and “Disembarkation.” ANSA reported that the six member states “expressed disapproval of the draft and called it ‘unacceptable for practical and legal reasons’.”  The six countries have reportedly taken the position that there is no need for further regulations pertaining to rescue at sea or post-rescue places of disembarkation since other international laws already “deal ‘amply’ with the matters.”

As you may recall, the earlier version of the Frontex Sea Borders Rule in the form of a Decision was adopted by the European Council in 2010 (Decision 2010/252/EU).  The Decision was subsequently annulled by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the ground that it introduced new essential elements into the Schengen Borders Code by way of the provisions on interception, rescue and disembarkation and that such substantive changes required the consideration and approval of the European Parliament. (European Parliament v Council of the European Union, Case C-355/10, 5 Sept. 2012). The proposed replacement for the annulled Decision is in the form of a Regulation but is fairly similar in content.

While the ANSA report does not identify the specific reasons why the six states are opposing the proposal, one can speculate that the objections to Art. 9, Search and Rescue Situations, may be based on a perception that it would expand the obligation to rescue under certain circumstances.  For example the Article requires that even in the absence of a distress call, a rescue operation might still be required if other factors are present, including:

  • the seaworthiness of the ship and the likelihood that the ship will not reach its final destination;
  • the number of passengers in relation to the type and condition of the ship;
  • the availability of necessary supplies such as fuel, water, food to reach a shore;
  • the presence of passengers in urgent need of medical assistance;
  • the presence of deceased passengers;
  • the presence of pregnant women or children.

The objections by the six states to Art. 10 regarding places of disembarkation are most likely due to the states’ conflicting positions regarding where disembarkation should occur.  While Art. 10 creates a procedure for decisions regarding places of disembarkation to be made by participating member states in advance of joint operations, its provisions identify circumstances under which disembarkation in member state may occur when that state is not participating in the joint operation.  Malta and Italy in particular have long disagreed on where disembarkations are to occur.  This long standing disagreement obviously contradicts the claims made by the six opposing states that existing international laws already deal “amply” with the disembarkation issue.

Click here for ANSA article.

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Heinrich Böll Foundation Study: Borderline- The EU’s New Border Surveillance Initiatives, Assessing the Costs and Fundamental Rights Implications of EUROSUR and the ‘Smart Borders’ Proposals

The Heinrich Böll Foundation released a study written by Dr. Ben Hayes from Statewatch and Mathias Vermeulen (editor of The Lift- Legal Issues in the Fight Against Terrorism blog) entitled “Borderline – The EU’s new border surveillance initiatives: assessing the costs and fundamental rights implications of EUROSUR and the ‘Smart Borders’ Proposals.”  The Study was presented to the European Parliament last month.  As Mathias Vermeulen noted in an email distributing the study, “the European Parliament is currently negotiating the legislative proposal for Eurosur, and the European Commission is likely to present a legislative proposal on ‘smart borders’ in September/October.”

Excerpts from the Preface and Executive Summary of the Study:

Preface

The upheavals in North Africa have lead to a short-term rise of refugees to Europe, yet, demonstrably, there has been no wave of refugees heading for Europe. By far most refugees have found shelter in neighbouring Arab countries. Nevertheless, in June 2011, the EU’s heads of state precipitately adopted EU Council Conclusions with far-reaching consequences, one that will result in new border policies ‘protecting’ the Union against migration. In addition to new rules and the re-introduction of border controls within the Schengen Area, the heads of state also insisted on upgrading the EU’s external borders using state-of-art surveillance technology, thus turning the EU into an electronic fortress.

The Conclusions passed by the representatives of EU governments aims to quickly put into place the European surveillance system EUROSUR. This is meant to enhance co-operation between Europe’s border control agencies and promote the surveillance of the EU’s external borders by FRONTEX, the Union’s agency for the protection of its external borders, using state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. To achieve this, there are even plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the Mediterranean and the coasts of North Africa. Such high-tech missions have the aim to spot and stop refugee vessels even before they reach Europe’s borders. A EUROSUR bill has been drafted and is presently being discussed in the European Council and in the European Parliament. [***]

EUROSUR and ‘smart borders’ represent the EU’s cynical response to the Arab Spring. Both are new forms of European border controls – new external border protection policies to shut down the influx of refugees and migrants (supplemented by internal controls within the Schengen Area); to achieve this, the home secretaries of some countries are even willing to accept an infringement of fundamental rights.

The present study by Ben Hayes and Mathias Vermeulen demonstrates that EUROSUR fosters EU policies that undermine the rights to asylum and protection. For some time, FRONTEX has been criticised for its ‘push back’ operations during which refugee vessels are being intercepted and escorted back to their ports of origin. In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for carrying out such operations, arguing that Italian border guards had returned all refugees found on an intercepted vessel back to Libya – including those with a right to asylum and international protection. As envisioned by EUROSUR, the surveillance of the Mediterranean using UAVs, satellites, and shipboard monitoring systems will make it much easier to spot such vessels. It is to be feared, that co-operation with third countries, especially in North Africa, as envisioned as part of EUROSUR, will lead to an increase of ‘push back’ operations.

Nevertheless, the EU’s announcement of EUROSUR sounds upbeat: The planned surveillance of the Mediterranean, we are being told, using UAVs, satellites, and shipboard monitoring systems, will aid in the rescue of refugees shipwrecked on the open seas. The present study reveals to what extent such statements cover up a lack of substance. Maritime rescue services are not part of EUROSUR and border guards do not share information with them, however vital this may be. Only just recently, the Council of Europe issued a report on the death of 63 migrants that starved and perished on an unseaworthy vessel, concluding that the key problem had not been to locate the vessel but ill-defined responsibilities within Europe. No one came to the aid of the refugees – and that in spite of the fact that the vessel’s position had been known. [***]

The EU’s new border control programmes not only represent a novel technological upgrade, they also show that the EU is unable to deal with migration and refugees. Of the 500,000 refugees fleeing the turmoil in North Africa, less than 5% ended up in Europe. Rather, the problem is that most refugees are concentrated in only a very few places. It is not that the EU is overtaxed by the problem; it is local structures on Lampedusa, in Greece’s Evros region, and on Malta that have to bear the brunt of the burden. This can hardly be resolved by labelling migration as a novel threat and using military surveillance technology to seal borders. For years, instead of receiving refugees, the German government along with other EU countries has blocked a review of the Dublin Regulation in the European Council. For the foreseeable future, refugees and migrants are to remain in the countries that are their first point of entry into the Union.

Within the EU, the hostile stance against migrants has reached levels that threaten the rescue of shipwrecked refugees. During FRONTEX operations, shipwrecked refugees will not be brought to the nearest port – although this is what international law stipulates – instead they will be landed in a port of the member country that is in charge of the operation. This reflects a ’nimby’ attitude – not in my backyard. This is precisely the reason for the lack of responsibility in European maritime rescue operations pointed out by the Council of Europe. As long as member states are unwilling to show more solidarity and greater humanity, EUROSUR will do nothing to change the status quo.

The way forward would be to introduce improved, Europe-wide standards for the granting of asylum. The relevant EU guidelines are presently under review, albeit with the proviso that the cost of new regulations may not exceed the cost of those in place – and that they may not cause a relative rise in the number of asylum requests. In a rather cynical move, the EU’s heads of government introduced this proviso in exactly the same resolution that calls for the rapid introduction of new surveillance measures costing billions. Correspondingly, the budget of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is small – only a ninth what goes towards FRONTEX.

Unable to tackle the root of the problem, the member states are upgrading the Union’s external borders. Such a highly parochial approach taken to a massive scale threatens some of the EU’s fundamental values – under the pretence that one’s own interests are at stake. Such an approach borders on the inhumane.

Berlin/Brussels, May 2012

Barbara Unmüßig

President Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Ska Keller

Member of the European Parliament

Executive Summary

The research paper ‘Borderline’ examines two new EU border surveillance initiatives: the creation of a European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and the creation of the so-called ‘smart borders package’…. EUROSUR promises increased surveillance of the EU’s sea and land borders using a vast array of new technologies, including drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), off-shore sensors, and satellite tracking systems. [***]

The EU’s 2008 proposals gained new momentum with the perceived ‘migration crisis’ that accompanied the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, which resulted in the arrival of thousands of Tunisians in France. These proposals are now entering a decisive phase. The European Parliament and the Council have just started negotiating the legislative proposal for the EUROSUR system, and within months the Commission is expected to issue formal proposals for the establishment of an [Entry-Exit System] and [Registered Traveller Programme]. [***]

The report is also critical of the decision-making process. Whereas the decision to establish comparable EU systems such as EUROPOL and FRONTEX were at least discussed in the European and national parliaments, and by civil society, in the case of EUROSUR – and to a lesser extent the smart borders initiative – this method has been substituted for a technocratic process that has allowed for the development of the system and substantial public expenditure to occur well in advance of the legislation now on the table. Following five years of technical development, the European Commission expects to adopt the legal framework and have the EUROSUR system up and running (albeit in beta form) in the same year (2013), presenting the European Parliament with an effective fait accomplit.

The EUROSUR system

The main purpose of EUROSUR is to improve the ‘situational awareness’ and reaction capability of the member states and FRONTEX to prevent irregular migration and cross-border crime at the EU’s external land and maritime borders. In practical terms, the proposed Regulation would extend the obligations on Schengen states to conducting comprehensive ‘24/7’ surveillance of land and sea borders designated as high-risk – in terms of unauthorised migration – and mandate FRONTEX to carry out surveillance of the open seas beyond EU territory and the coasts and ports of northern Africa. Increased situational awareness of the high seas should force EU member states to take adequate steps to locate and rescue persons in distress at sea in accordance with the international law of the sea. The Commission has repeatedly stressed EUROSUR’s future role in ‘protecting and saving lives of migrants’, but nowhere in the proposed Regulation and numerous assessments, studies, and R&D projects is it defined how exactly this will be done, nor are there any procedures laid out for what should be done with the ‘rescued’. In this context, and despite the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean among migrants and refugees bound for Europe, EUROSUR is more likely to be used alongside the long-standing European policy of preventing these people reaching EU territory (including so-called push back operations, where migrant boats are taken back to the state of departure) rather than as a genuine life-saving tool.

The EUROSUR system relies on a host of new surveillance technologies and the interlinking of 24 different national surveillance systems and coordination centers, bilaterally and through FRONTEX. Despite the high-tech claims, however, the planned EUROSUR system has not been subject to a proper technological risk assessment. The development of new technologies and the process of interlinking 24 different national surveillance systems and coordination centres – bilaterally and through FRONTEX – is both extremely complex and extremely costly, yet the only people who have been asked if they think it will work are FRONTEX and the companies selling the hardware and software. The European Commission estimates that EUROSUR will cost €338 million, but its methods do not stand up to scrutiny. Based on recent expenditure from the EU External Borders Fund, the framework research programme, and indicative budgets for the planned Internal Security Fund (which will support the implementation of the EU’s Internal Security Strategy from 2014–2020), it appears that EUROSUR could easily end up costing two or three times more: as much as €874 million. Without a cap on what can be spent attached to the draft EUROSUR or Internal Security Fund legislation, the European Parliament will be powerless to prevent any cost overruns. There is no single mechanism for financial accountability beyond the periodic reports submitted by the Commission and FRONTEX, and since the project is being funded from various EU budget lines, it is already very difficult to monitor what has actually been spent.

In its legislative proposal, the European Commission argues that EUROSUR will only process personal data on an ‘exceptional’ basis, with the result that minimal attention is being paid to privacy and data protection issues. The report argues that the use of drones and high-resolution cameras means that much more personal data is likely to be collected and processed than is being claimed. Detailed data protection safeguards are needed, particularly since EUROSUR will form in the future a part of the EU’s wider Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE), under which information may be shared with a whole range of third actors, including police agencies and defence forces. They also call for proper supervision of EUROSUR, with national data protection authorities checking the processing of personal data by the EUROSUR National Coordination Centres, and the processing of personal data by FRONTEX, subject to review by the European Data Protection Supervisor. EUROSUR also envisages the exchange of information with ‘neighbouring third countries’ on the basis of bilateral or multilateral agreements with member states, but the draft legislation expressly precludes such exchanges where third countries could use this information to identify persons or groups who are at risk of being subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, or other fundamental rights violations. The authors argue that it will be impossible to uphold this provision without the logging of all such data exchanges and the establishment of a proper supervisory system. [***]”

Click here or here for full text of Study.

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EU Court of Justice Advocate General Recommends Annulment of Frontex Sea Borders Rule

ECJ Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi issued an Opinion on 17 April in which he recommended that the European Court of Justice annul Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex (Sea Borders Rule).  The Advocate General’s recommendation, issued in the case of the European Parliament v Council of the EU, Case C-355/10, will be considered by the ECJ in the coming weeks.  The case was filed by the European Parliament on 12 July 2010.  A hearing was conducted on 25 January 2012.

The Advocate General’s recommendation is based primarily on the conclusion that the Council adopted the Frontex Sea Borders Rule by invoking a procedure which may only be used to amend “non-essential elements” of the Schengen Borders Code.  The Advocate General concluded that rather than amending “non-essential elements” of the SBC, the Council Decision introduces “new essential elements” into the SBC and amends the Frontex Regulation.  The recommendation calls for the effects of the Sea Borders Rule to be maintained until a new act can be adopted in accordance with ordinary legislative procedures.

[UPDATE:]  Paragraph 64 of the Recommendation explains why the Commission likely sought to implement the Sea Borders Rule through the committee mechanism rather than by pursuing ordinary legislative procedures:

“64.      Firstly, some provisions of the contested decision concern problems that, as well as being sensitive, are also particularly controversial, such as, for example, the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters (51) or the determination of the place to which rescued persons are to be escorted under the arrangements introduced by the SAR Convention. (52) The Member States have different opinions on these problems, as is evident from the proposal for a decision submitted by the Commission. (Ftnt 53)

Ftnt 53 – Moreover, it would seem that it is precisely a difference of opinion and the impasse created by it which led to the Commission’s choosing to act through the committee mechanism under Article 12(5) of the SBC rather than the ordinary legislative procedure, as is clear also from the letter from Commissioner Malmström annexed to the reply. These differences persist. The provisions of the contested decision concerning search and rescue, for example, have not been applied in Frontex operations launched after the entry into force of the contested decision on account of opposition from Malta.”

While this case presents a procedural question and does not involve a review of any of the substantive provisions of the Sea Borders Rule, the Advocate General’s statement in Paragraph 64 that “the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters” is a “controversial” position is wrong.  Perhaps the position is still controversial in some circles, but legally, with the important exception expressed by the US Supreme Court, it is clear that non-refoulement obligations apply to actions taken in international waters.

Click here for Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, Case C-355/10, 17 April 2012.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for my last post on the case.

Extensive Excerpts from the Advocate General’s Recommendation:

“1.        In the present proceedings, the European Parliament requests the Court to annul Council Decision 2010/252/EU of 26 April 2010 supplementing the Schengen Borders Code (2) as regards the surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (‘the contested decision’). (3) If the action should be upheld, Parliament requests that the effects of the contested decision be maintained until it shall have been replaced.

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9.        The contested decision was adopted on the basis of Article 12(5) of the SBC, in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 5a(4) of the comitology decision … [***]

10.      According to recitals (2) and (11) of the contested decision, its principal objective is the adoption of additional rules for the surveillance of the sea borders by border guards operating under the coordination of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (‘the Agency’ or ‘Frontex’), established by Regulation 2007/2004 (‘the Frontex Regulation’). (9) It consists of two articles and an annex divided into two parts entitled ‘Rules for sea border operations coordinated by the Agency’ and ‘Guidelines for search and rescue situations and for disembarkation in the context of sea border operations coordinated by the Agency’. Under Article 1, ‘[t]he surveillance of the sea external borders in the context of the operational cooperation between Member States coordinated by the … Agency … shall be governed by the rules laid down in Part I to the Annex. Those rules and the non-binding guidelines laid down in Part II to the Annex shall form part of the operational plan drawn up for each operation coordinated by the Agency.’

11.      Point 1 of Part I to the Annex lays down certain general principles intended, inter alia, to guarantee that maritime surveillance operations are conducted in accordance with fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement. Point 2 contains detailed provisions on interception and lists the measures that may be taken in the course of the surveillance operation ‘against ships or other sea craft with regard to which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that they carry persons intending to circumvent the checks at border crossing points’ (point 2.4). The conditions for taking such measures vary depending on whether the interception takes place in the territorial waters and contiguous zone of a Member State (point 2.5.1) or on the high seas (point 2.5.2). Point 1 of Part II to the Annex lays down provisions on units participating in the surveillance operation in search and rescue situations, including with regard to communicating and forwarding information to the rescue coordination centre responsible for the area in question and the coordination centre of the operation, and defines certain conditions for the existence of an emergency (point 1.4). Point 2 lays down guidelines on the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued.

II –  Procedure before the Court and forms of order sought

12.      By act lodged at the Registry of the Court of Justice on 12 July 2010, the Parliament brought the action which forms the subject-matter of the present proceedings. The Commission intervened in support of the Council. At the hearing of 25 January 2012, the agents of the three institutions presented oral argument.

13.      The Parliament claims that the Court should annul the contested decision, rule that the effects thereof be maintained until it is replaced, and order the Council to pay the costs.

14.      The Council contends that the Court should dismiss the application as inadmissible or, in the alternative, as unfounded and order the Parliament to pay the costs.

15.      The Commission requests the Court to dismiss the application and order the Parliament to pay the costs.

III –  Application

A –    Admissibility

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23.      For all the reasons set out above, the application must, in my view, be declared admissible.

B –    Substance

24.      The Parliament considers that the contested decision exceeds the implementing powers conferred by Article 12(5) of the SBC and therefore falls outside the ambit of its legal basis. In that context it raises three complaints. Firstly, the contested decision introduces new essential elements into the SBC. Secondly, it alters essential elements of the SBC. Thirdly, it interferes with the system created by the Frontex Regulation. These complaints are examined separately below.

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3.      First complaint, alleging that the contested decision introduces new essential elements into the SBC

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61.      Given both the sphere of which the legislation in question forms part and the objectives and general scheme of the SBC, in which surveillance is a fundamental component of border control policy, and notwithstanding the latitude left to the Commission by Article 12(5), I consider that strong measures such as those listed in point 2.4 of the annex to the contested decision, in particular those in subparagraphs (b), (d), (f) and g), and the provisions on disembarkation contained in Part II to that annex, govern essential elements of external maritime border surveillance. These measures entail options likely to affect individuals’ personal freedoms and fundamental rights (for example, searches, apprehension, seizure of the vessel, etc.), the opportunity those individuals have of relying on and obtaining in the Union the protection they may be entitled to enjoy under international law (this is true of the rules on disembarkation in the absence of precise indications on how the authorities are to take account of the individual situation of those on board the intercepted vessel), (47) and also the relations between the Union or the Member States participating in the surveillance operation and the third countries involved in that operation.

62.      In my view, a similar approach is necessary with regard to the provisions of the contested decision governing interception of vessels on the high seas. On the one hand, those provisions expressly authorise the adoption of the measures mentioned in the preceding paragraph in international waters, an option which, in the context described above, is essential in nature, irrespective of whether or not the Parliament’s argument is well founded, that the geographical scope of the SBC, with regard to maritime borders, is restricted to the external limit of the Member State’s territorial waters or the contiguous zone, and does not extend to the high seas. (48) On the other hand, those provisions, intended to ensure the uniform application of relevant international law in the context of maritime border surveillance operations, (49) even if they do not create obligations for the Member States participating in those operations or confer powers on them, other than those that may be deduced from that legislation, do bind them to a particular interpretation of those obligations and powers, thereby potentially bringing their international responsibility into play. (50)

63.      Two further observations militate in favour of the conclusions reached above.

64.      Firstly, some provisions of the contested decision concern problems that, as well as being sensitive, are also particularly controversial, such as, for example, the applicability of the principle of non-refoulement in international waters (51) or the determination of the place to which rescued persons are to be escorted under the arrangements introduced by the SAR Convention. (52) The Member States have different opinions on these problems, as is evident from the proposal for a decision submitted by the Commission. (53)

65.      Secondly, a comparison with the rules on border checks contained in the SBC shows that the definition of the practical arrangements for carrying out those checks, in so far as they concern aspects comparable, mutatis mutandis, to those governed by the contested decision, was reserved to the legislature, and this is so notwithstanding the fact that the Commission expressed a different opinion in the proposal for a regulation. (54)

66.      In the light of all the preceding provisions, I consider that the contested decision governs essential elements of the basic legislation within the meaning of the case-law set out in points 26 to 29 of this Opinion.

67.      Therefore, the Parliament’s first complaint must, in my opinion, be upheld.

4.      Second complaint, alleging that the contested decision alters essential elements of the SBC

68.      In its second complaint, the Parliament claims that, by providing that border guards may order the intercepted vessel to change its course towards a destination outside territorial waters and conduct it or the persons on board to a third country [point 2.4(e) and (f) of Part I to the annex], the contested decision alters an essential element of the SBC, that is to say, the principle set out in Article 13, under which ‘[e]ntry may only be refused by a substantiated decision stating the precise reasons for the refusal.’

69.      The Parliament’s argument is based on the premise that Article 13 is applicable to border surveillance too. This interpretation is opposed by both the Council and the Commission, which consider that the obligation to adopt a measure for which reasons are stated pursuant to that provision exists only when a person who has duly presented himself at a border crossing point and been subject to the checks provided for in the SBC has been refused entry into the territory of Union.

70.      The Parliament’s complaint must, in my view, be rejected, with no need to give a ruling, as to the substance, on the delicate question of the scope of Article 13 SBC on which the Court will, in all likelihood, be called to rule in the future.

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5.      Third complaint, alleging that the contested decision amends the Frontex Regulation

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82.      However, the fact remains that Article 1 of the contested decision substantially reduces the latitude of the requesting Member State and, consequently, that of the Agency, potentially interfering significantly with its functioning. An example of this is provided by the events connected with the Frontex intervention requested by Malta in March 2011 in the context of the Libyan crisis. The request by Malta, inter alia, not to integrate into the operational plan the guidelines contained in Part II to the annex to the contested decision met with opposition from various Member States and involved long negotiations between the Agency and the Maltese Government which prevented the operation from being launched. (62)

83.      In actual fact, the annex to the contested decision as a whole, including the non-binding guidelines – whose mandatory force, given the wording of Article 1, it is difficult to contest – (63) is perceived as forming part of the Community measures relating to management of external borders whose application the Agency is required to facilitate and render more effective under Article 1(2) of the Frontex Regulation. (64)

84.      Furthermore, the non-binding guidelines contained in Part II to the annex to the contested decision relating to search and rescue situations govern aspects of the operation that do not fall within Frontex’s duties. As the Commission itself points out in the proposal on the basis of which the contested decision was adopted, Frontex is not an SAR agency (65) and ‘the fact that most of the maritime operations coordinated by it turn into search and rescue operations removes them from the scope of Frontex’. (66) The same is true with regard to the rules on disembarkation. None the less, the contested decision provides for those guidelines to be incorporated into the operational plan.

85.      On the basis of the foregoing considerations, I consider that, by regulating aspects relating to operational cooperation between Member States in the field of management of the Union’s external borders that fall within the scope of the Frontex Regulation and, in any event, by laying down rules that interfere with the functioning of the Agency established by that regulation, the contested decision exceeds the implementing powers conferred by Article 12(5) of the SBC.

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C –    Conclusions reached on the application

89.      In the light of the foregoing, the action must, in my view, be allowed and the contested decision annulled.

IV –  Parliament’s request that the effects of the contested decision be maintained

90.      The Parliament requests the Court, should it order the annulment of the contested decision, to maintain the effects thereof until a new act be adopted, pursuant to the power conferred on it by the second paragraph of Article 264 TFEU. That provision, under which ‘the Court shall, if it considers this necessary, state which of the effects of the act which it has declared void shall be considered as definitive’ has also been used to maintain temporarily all the effects of such an act pending its replacement. (68)

91.      In the present case, annulment pure and simple of the contested decision would deprive the Union of an important legal instrument for coordinating joint action by the Member States in the field of managing surveillance of the Union’s maritime borders, and for making that surveillance more in keeping with human rights and the rules for the protection of refugees.

92.      For the reasons set out, I consider that the Parliament’s application should be granted and the effects of the contested decision maintained until an act adopted in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure shall have been adopted.

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Click here for Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, Case C-355/10, 17 April 2012.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

Click here for previous post on topic.

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Extraordinary JHA Council Meeting 12 May

From the Europa web site:  “This Council meeting will focus mainly on migration and border related issues arising from the situation in the Southern neighbourhood region. Ministers will follow up the European Council conclusions of 11 March (EUCO 7/11) and 24-25 March (EUCO 10/11, pt 18-26) and the Council conclusions of 11-12 April 2011 (8909/11). They will also discuss a related communication to be presented by the Commission. The state of play as regards the proposal for modifications to the 2004 regulation that established the European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders of the EU member states (FRONTEX) will also be reviewed at a meeting of the Mixed Committee in the margins of the Council….”

From the Commission’s Memo:

“Main Council agenda items:

[***] The Commission expects the Council to support the main lines of action set out in its 4 May Communication on migration for a more structured, comprehensive response to the challenges and opportunities of migration. These proposals, which come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Southern Neighbourhood and migration pressures on frontline Member States, will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months. A first series of proposals, notably on integration and migration relations with the Southern Mediterranean, will be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.

Background: On the 4th of May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273), the Commission presented its comprehensive strategy for a common EU asylum and migration policy, also in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including provisions for:

  • Effective and credible controls at the EU external border (strengthening of Frontex; exploring the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards).
  • An improvement of Schengen governance (guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation of the Schengen rules; revised evaluation mechanism based on a Community approach; a possible EU-coordinated mechanism allowing for the temporary reintroduction of controls at the internal borders, as a last resort and under exceptional circumstances)
  • An effective and responsible approach to tackling irregular immigration (effective implementation of EU legislation and rethinking of the EU readmission policy).
  • Promoting mobility in a secure environment (possible development of a ‘new generation’ of border checks; proper use of visa liberalisation combined with safeguards).
  • Achievement of a Common European Asylum Policy (adoption of the Commission proposals already tabled).
  • Further development of common rules on legal migration and an exchange of experience and best practices on the integration of migrants.
  • Deepened relations with third countries in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration, in particular through enhanced dialogues and Mobility partnerships with countries in the Southern Mediterranean.

2. Strengthening Frontex Agency

[***] Commission’s position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission’s proposals by the end of June, considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation.

Background: In February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45), the Commission made proposals to strengthen European Union’s border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal, Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency’s disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.

3. Evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements (EURAs)

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Pledging Conference on relocation and resettlement

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Commission’s position: The Commission took the initiative to gather the Ministers, expecting confirmation of their commitment to engage in further relocation of refugees from Malta and to resettle refugees stranded in North Africa. This would demonstrate the concrete solidarity the EU and its Member States are willing to show in times of need, both internally with its own Member States and to its international partners. The Commission is ready to provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement from North Africa undertaken on a voluntary basis by Member States.

Background: The implementation of the EU relocation pilot project with Malta has been ongoing for more than a year and it has been a success in demonstrating concrete intra-EU solidarity by the relocation of refugees present in Malta to other Member States. In April, the Council adopted conclusions on solidarity, where it reaffirmed the need for solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and welcomed the Commission’s intention to extend the existing pilot project for the relocation of refugees from Malta. Several Member States have announced their intention to participate in this project. In its conclusions, the Council also requested the Commission to facilitate resettlement activities undertaken on a voluntary basis by the Member States, also by means of financial support. The resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa had already been discussed at a meeting on the 25th of March, with the participation of the UNHCR, during which Member States provided information on their commitments to resettle a number of refugees from the region.”

Click here for Commission’s Memo

Click here for Agenda.

Click here for Background Note.

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Frontex Announces Expansion of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to Include Crete and Eastern Portions of Central Mediterranean

Two days after announcing the extension of Joint Operation Hermes and the westward expansion of the operational area of JO Hermes to include the waters around Sardinia, Frontex on 26 March announced the expansion of the operational area of Joint Operation Poseidon Sea to include the waters around Crete.  The expansion is due to the “highly volatile situation in North Africa” and was called for by the European Council’s Conclusions issued at the end of the Council meeting of 24/25 March: “the Commission will make additional resources available in support to [Frontex’s] 2011 Hermes and Poseidon operations and Member States are invited to provide further human and technical resources.”

Excerpts from the Frontex statement:  “March 26, 2011 — Responding to the highly volatile situation in North Africa Frontex extends operational area of its on-going Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon Sea. In the first four weeks of deployment Joint Operation Poseidon Land sees decreasing numbers of arrivals across the land border with Turkey.   In view of potential migratory flows from Libya operational area of JO Poseidon Sea, which covers the Greek islands in the Aegean sea, has been widened to include Crete. On Thursday, 24 February Romanian maritime surveillance vessel and a Portuguese plane were deployed to increase patrolling intensity in this region. [***]”

Click here for Frontex Poseidon Sea press release.

Click here for the Frontex Hermes press release.

Click here for the Council Conclusions.

Click here for previous post on the expansion of JO Hermes.

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