Tag Archives: Schengen Treaty

European Commission’s Second Biannual Report on Schengen Area

The European Commission released its “Second biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area” covering the period 1 May 2012-31 October 2012.  (COM(2012) 686 final, 23.11.2012)  The first reporton the Schengen area was released in May of this year.  (COM(2012) 230 final, 16.5.2012)

Here are a few excerpts from the 8 page document:

The Commission intends to present a legislative proposal in early 2013 to replace the Frontex sea border operations rule (Council Decision 2010/252/EU) that was annulled by the Court of Justice on 5 September 2012;

Subsequent to the issuance of a letter of formal notice to Greece in October 2009 in response to “allegations of serious difficulties faced by migrants in applying for asylum and ill-treatment of asylum-seekers, including the turning back of persons who may face serious harm or persecution”, the Commission is continuing to analyse the situation “in the light of constant developments, such as the progress made in the implementation of the Greek National Action Plan.”;

Subsequent to a Commission request to Italy in July 2009 “to provide information on the measures to avoid the risk of refoulement” and the February 2012 European Court of Human Rights decision in the Case of Hirsi v. Italy, “[a]gainst this background, the Commission is now analysing the implications of this ruling on border surveillance operations at sea and on the asylum acquis.

Click  here or here for Second Report.

Click here for First Report.

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Filed under Aegean Sea, European Court of Human Rights, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Judicial, Libya, Mediterranean, Reports

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 Council Resource Centre – Free Movement and Migration web site

A new resource from the EU Council:  “Check out our new online resource centre: http://www.eucouncilfiles.eu/.  It contains everything there is to know about free movement and migration….”

The site contains several folders for specific topics including:  Southern Neighbourhood (contains, among other things, updated statistics of migrants flows since the beginning of the current crisis);  Asylum, and  Migration.

Click here for main site.

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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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Draft Commission Communication on Migration

[UPDATE 4 May 2011 – the FINAL Communication on Migration was released today.  Click here for Communication and click here for my updated post.]

The European Commission will consider and likely adopt a Communication on migration on Wednesday, 4 May.  Below are excerpts from a draft document which appears to have been under consideration as of 15 April.  The draft Communication  [DRAFT 15-04-2011] includes proposals for burden sharing under certain circumstances and “a mechanism [for the introduction of] a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of [internal EU border] controls. 

Excerpts from the draft:

“Table of Contents

1……….. Introduction

2……….. Crossing the borders

2.1…….. Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures

2.2…….. Border controls

2.3…….. Schengen governance

2.4…….. Preventing irregular immigration

3……….. Moving and living in an area without internal borders

3.1…….. Organised mobility

3.2…….. A consistent policy on mobility including visas

3.3…….. A properly managed legal migration

3.4…….. Building an inclusive society by integrating immigrants

4……….. Providing international protection to persons in need

5……….. Migration in External relations beyond the crisis

5.1…….. The Global approach to migration

5.2…….. Beyond the crisis: the EU and the Southern Mediterranean in partnership

1.  Introduction

[***]

Some Member States, such as Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus are more directly exposed to massive arrivals of irregular migrants and, to a limited extent, of persons in need of international protection. This is not a national problem alone, but needs also to be addressed at the EU level and requires true solidarity amongst Member States.

The EU must ensure quick assistance to all persons in need – as it has done notably at the Tunisian-Libyan border – and provide shelter to those in need of international protection. Whilst the EU must maintain and consolidate its tradition of granting asylum and protection it should also foresee the appropriate tools in order to prevent large number of economic migrants crossing the borders irregularly. To reach these objectives, managing effectively the EU borders is a condition of credibility inside and outside the Union.

The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, and the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to address the EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.

However, the absolute need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues. Dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and of transit of these migrants is essential. Such collaboration needs to be built on security and good governance for the establishment of mutually beneficial policies in the field of legal migration. It also implies enhanced economic cooperation in order to develop the conditions for growth and employment in the countries of origin, to address the causes of irregular migration and to promote a pact for development and well managed legal migration in its various forms.

[***]

2.1   Coping with the crisis: the short-term measures

[***]

Those Member States that are most exposed to the growing flows of refugees and irregular migrants have been helped with the financial consequences of the displacement. To this end, around 25 MEUR which were identified under the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund.

While the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.

The financial resources available under the General programme “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows” are inadequate to respond to all requests for assistance. First, these funds can not be mobilised easily; they are designed to intervene in a stable situation and not to tackle emergencies and crisis. Secondly, the magnitude of the problems largely exceeds the existing facilities.

In the context of the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, will have to draw lessons from the current crisis. For the EU to react quickly and effectively in the case of unforeseen events or emergencies, Home Affairs funding should be adapted so that it can be mobilised much more rapidly and flexibly, including in third countries.

In principle, other forms of solidarity exist to respond to the dramatic events taking place in the region. Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration. However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.

The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.

The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).

Finally, as an important gesture of solidarity towards the North African countries (especially Tunisia) which are currently hosting large number of persons in need of international protection who cannot be returned to their countries of origin, and in order to maintain ‘protection space’ in these countries, it is important for EU Member States to accept to resettle some of these persons.

2.3  Schengen governance

[***]

A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated response by the Union in these critical situations will increase trust among Member States. It will also reduce the need for unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions. However, even when such initiatives are taken within the limits set by the acquis, they inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. To be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced allowing for a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of controls at one or several sections of the internal border. Such a mechanism would apply for a limited and pre-determined period of time, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.

[***]”

Click on this link  “DRAFT 15-04-2011” for draft Communication.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

[UPDATE – 4 May 2011 – Click here for FINAL Communication and click here for my updated post.]

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Filed under Cyprus, European Union, Frontex, General, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Tunisia

Van Rompuy: Migration Danger Should Not Be Exaggerated; European Treaties Need to Be Respected

EU President Herman Van Rompuy said during an interview on Sunday that the danger of migration to Europe should not be exaggerated and that European migration treaties, including the Schengen agreement, need to be respected.  He said “[t]here is of course a migration danger, but do not overdo it.” (“Interrogé sur l’existence d’un danger migratoire lié à l’afflux de migrants depuis le début des révoltes dans le monde arabe, M. Van Rompuy a répondu : ‘Il y a bien sûr un danger migratoire mais il ne faut pas l’exagérer’, lors d’une émission d’une émission commune de la chaîne TV5Monde, la radio RFI et du journal Le Monde.”)  In regard to the Schengen agreement, he said “[n]either Italy nor France, until now, has done anything illegal. That said, there is a danger of not respecting the spirit of the Schengen Treaty…” (“Ni l’Italie, ni la France, jusqu’à présent, n’ont fait quelque chose d’illégal. Ceci dit, il y a un danger de ne pas respecter l’esprit du traité de Schengen…”)

Van Rompuy’s remarks are consistent with Jose Manuel Barroso’s statements last week reported by the EU Observer regarding the danger of the “immigration debate being hijacked by ‘populist and extremist’ forces in Europe.”  Barroso was quoted as saying “I don’t think it is in the interest of third countries [such as Tunisia] that there is a debate in Europe on such sensitive issues and that certain populist, extremist forces seek to take advantage of these problems.”

We got a small taste of the populist forces at work with yesterday’s results in Finland’s parliamentary elections and the strong third place showing of the True Finns led by Timo Soini.  While the True Finns are currently focused more on blocking the Portuguese financial bailout,  anti-immigrant sentiments within the party are strong.

Click here (FR), here (EN), and here (EN) for articles.

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