Blog AnalysisBorders Immigration AsylumEuropean policy

Commonly managed European border (and coast) guards. Let's go !

border guards on the Bulgarian border (Credit: Frontex)
border guards on the Bulgarian border (Credit: Frontex)

(BRUSSELS2) The inauguration taking place in Bulgaria today is symbolic. The sending of border guards as reinforcements to the Bulgarian border, faced with a new wave of refugees and migrants from Turkey, was done more (let's be exact) under the old regime of the Frontex agency than under the new one. regime of the European Border and Coast Guard. But it has symbolic value. The Europeans are taking a notable, important step forward.

This innovation should not be judged with disdain, as in certain press comments (in France in particular). The European Corps is not a vulgar 'thing'... born in the minds of a few brains in Brussels and which is a communications artifice or a 'gleaming car' whose engine, gasoline and license have been forgotten. lead (like certain projects…). No ! It is a real structuring tool, which allows us to finally provide the Schengen area with an armed arm and a lookout. By its measure, it is undoubtedly as important as the creation of the European Central Bank. Neglecting it is therefore a fundamental error... Having followed all the developments in this issue, as well as the most recent debates, we can say without boasting: Europe is accomplishing a “small revolution”!

Virtual joint surveillance of the Schengen area

Until now, the common surveillance of external borders, advocated in the Schengen Treaty, was rather virtual. Certainly the rule was set. But it relied almost entirely on the goodwill and means of the Member States. When these are lacking but everything is fine, we barely notice it. Certainly some bands of criminals and traffickers happily cross these porous borders. But that doesn't really translate into public terms. When there are – as for several months – waves of asylum seekers and migrants who land in Greece or cross the border in Bulgaria, it is much more visible. And there is panic on board. Faced with this, the Frontex agency did not really have the financial, legal, material or human resources to react...

A common tool…

The objective of this European Corps is precisely to provide Europe with a common tool. The Member States – until now reluctant to any development (the Nordic and Eastern countries in particular, Spain as well) – have come to their senses. Alone, they can do nothing. We have to work together. For once, the Europeans rolled up their sleeves and built a complete tool.

… developed in record time

It should be noted in passing that between the green light from the Heads of State and Government (October 2015), the first text proposal (December 2015), its political adoption (early July 2016), its translation and its entry into force (mid-September 2016), and its first application on the ground (early October 2016), no one will have been idle or reluctant (neither civil servants nor diplomats nor parliamentarians). Less than a year will have passed! A record at European level but also at national level, especially for an instrument of this importance. Criticizing Europe for its slowness (as I have heard from some poorly informed commentators) is not justified in this case…

Reinforced means

The Frontex agency will be completely remodeled to create the European Corps. It will first be strengthened at the budgetary level (budget doubled) and in personnel (several hundred hires to be expected over 3 years, this is quite rare today). It will have within it a reinforced monitoring and forecasting tool. It will thus be able to carry out “vulnerability” studies on the borders to detect problems (a sort ofstress tests' like for banks but adapted to borders) but also propose solutions to Member States, or even plan operations (operational plan). The director of the agency (under the control of the board of directors) will have reinforced powers (in the event of a crisis) to set up joint operations or rapid response.

A reserve system

The new agency will have a reserve system of border guards, customs officers, experts (an initial emergency reserve of 1500 people in total + an additional reserve) who will be able to 'shift' in a few days. Important because we must remember that in the summer of 2015 when the Frontex agency launched an appeal to strengthen the Greek borders, the numbers came in trickles and slowly. The European Corps will have the capacity to purchase or rent the missing equipment. Very useful when we remember how the Greek borders were devoid of any means of recording, for example, people arriving. This capacity could be extended to heavy equipment (boats, planes, drones, etc.).

coast guard

Finally, the European Corps will have a real coast guard function. Its full name (European Border and Coast Guard) is not there just for show. It is an old European project - which many parliamentarians in particular called for - which is being realized in this way. The new agency will notably have among its official tasks sea rescue (1) and will have extensive maritime competence. The objective of its director, Fabrice Leggeri, is not only to hunt migrants, but to have a real police force at sea, facing different traffickers and terrorism, but also to work together with the other two European agencies (maritime safety, fisheries, etc.). “ Why not board our vessels with fisheries controllers, for example » he explained to me last July. Read : And now ! Set up the European Border Guard Corps (Leggeri)*

A project to believe in

In short, a beautiful project that is being realized, a concrete, useful tool, available not to Europe but to the Member States and its citizens. Rather than big vague ideas, or big projects that never have any use, it is this type of projects, structuring, comprehensive, that Europeans need today. An example for the defense to follow?

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).