The European union saw the launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency last week. Meanwhile, Italy, feeling increased pressure from a surge in people landing on its coasts, is calling for a deal in the style of the EU-Turkey agreement, this time between the EU and Africa.
Standing at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, EU and Bulgarian officials presented the EU’s new agency that is an evolution of Frontex, and will tackle external border management. On site were the EU’s Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, as well as Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, Rumiana Bachvarova, Slovakia’s State Secretary of the Interior Ministry Denisa Sakova, and Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of Frontex, and other senior officials.
“From now onwards, the external EU border of one member state is the external border of all member states, both legally and operationally,” said Avramopoulos, presenting the Commission’s rapid reaction to the need to immediately adapt Frontex to the EU’s current needs. “In less than one year we have established a fully-fledged European Border and Coast Guard system, turning into reality the principles of shared responsibility and solidarity.”
“The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is a symbol of the EU, it is a symbol of Europe that is able to deliver, united,” added Avramopoulos.
“By launching the European Border and Coast Guard, we are creating a new reality at our external borders. This is a tangible outcome of the joint commitment agreed in the Bratislava Roadmap, as well as a practical display of unity among member states, on our way back to Schengen,” added Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The executive director of Frontex – now the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Fabrice Leggeri, reassured member states that Frontex “will do whatever possible in order to be able to assess all vulnerabilities quickly after the stress tests, prior to a new crisis”.
Frontex will not be able to act without a member state’s consent. There is a period of 30 days after there has been an indication of vulnerability, when the European Council will be informed and the member state will be asked to take action. If the problems are not addressed and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency assesses that there is a systemic danger to the Schengen border in question, then temporary border controls can be instated.
The new agency will also be able to offer operational support to neighbouring non-EU countries which ask for assistance at their border and share intelligence on cross-border criminal activities with national authorities and European agencies in support of criminal investigations.
In addition to the agency’s permanent staff, a “rapid reserve pool” of at least 1,500 border guards and a technical equipment pool will be at its disposal. Each member state will be notified about the number, and type of agents it needs to send, and is bound to deploy them within three days of notification.
Over the next months, the new agency will be fully operational, and as of 7 December 2016 the European Border and Coast Guard will see 50 new recruits strengthening its structure.
The agency’s rapid reaction pool of 1500 agents standing ready for deployment will be operational by January and the first vulnerability assessments will be carried out by March 2017.
Italy calls for new EU-Turkey deal, Brussels says it’s already working with African countries
As the EU works to further secures its external borders, Italy is having a hard time, as the country’s overloaded refugee processing system could cost lives.
With migrants seen sleeping on rescue boats that should be patrolling offshore, Italy is experiencing a significant surge in arrivals. As many as 11,000 migrants have arrived in Italy in two days last week, while bodies of many drowned people who didn’t make the journey were also recovered. This large number of arrivals finds Italy struggling to ensure the safety of asylum seekers.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, in Ankara last Friday, suggested his country would appreciate an EU-Turkey-like agreement in order to curb migration flows from African countries to Italy. Gentiloni called for an agreement similar to the one reached with Turkey that has curbed migration flows across the Aegean into Greece. “We need to have [a] similar agreement to solve, or at least manage, migration flows from Africa,” he explained.
EU already working on Africa, no need for EU-Turkey deal duplicate
“There is already work on-going on migration partnerships, compacts and External Action Plan, when it comes to Africa,” an EU spokesperson told New Europe. With work on going at the EU level, and Italy under increased pressure, the sense of urgency increases the risk of mistakes being made at the policy level that will have a political impact.
The EU-Turkey deal has drawn fire from critics. At the moment, the climate at the European Commission seems to be that the characteristics of the extent, type, and local conditions of the challenges Italy is facing from the south are different to those of Greece, and as such the solutions will have to be different.