The new European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG) is established today, October 6, 2016.
This successor of the former Frontex (from French: Frontières extérieures for “external borders”) is an agency of the European Union headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, tasked with border control of the European Schengen Area, in coordination with the border and coast guards of Schengen Area member states. Frontex was established in 2004 as the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders, and primary responsible for coordinating border control efforts.
In response to the European migrant crisis of 2015-2016, the European Commission proposed on December 15, 2015, to extend Frontex’s mandate and to transform it into a fully-fledged European Border and Coast Guard Agency. On 18 December 2015, the European Council roundly supported the proposal, and after a vote by the European Parliament, the Border and Coast Guard was officially launched on 6 October 2016 at the Bulgarian external border with Turkey.
To enable the Agency to carry out its tasks, its budget would be gradually increased from the €143 million originally planned for 2015 up to €238 million in 2016, €281 million in 2017, and will reach €322 million (about US$350 million) in 2020. The staff of the agency would gradually increase from 402 members in 2016 to 1,000 by 2020.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is not a new body. It does not replace Frontex and it retains the same legal personality. What the Commission draft Regulation aims to do is to strengthen the mandate of the EU border agency, to increase its competences and to better equip it to carry out its operational activities. The new tasks and responsibilities of the Agency need to be reflected by its new name. It coordinates its work alongside the European Fisheries Control Agency and European Maritime Safety Agency with regard to coastguard functions.
The permanent staff of the Agency will be more than doubled between 2015 and 2020. The new proposal provides for a reserve of European border guards and technical equipment. The Agency will be able to purchase its own equipment (this is not a novelty). However – and this is new – the Member States where this equipment is registered (this refers mainly to big equipment items such as patrol vessels, air crafts, etc. which need a flag of state) will be obliged to put it at the Agency’s disposal whenever needed. this will make it possible for the Agency to rapidly deploy the necessary technical in border operations. A rapid reserve pool of border guards and a technical equipment pool will be put at the disposal of the agency, intending to remove the shortages of staff and equipment for the Agency’s operations.
A monitoring and risk analysis centre will be established, with the authorisation to carry out risk analysis and to monitor the flows towards and within the EU. The risk analyses includes cross-border crime and terrorism, process personal data of persons suspected to be involved in acts of terrorism and cooperate with other Union agencies and international organisations on the prevention of terrorism. A mandatory vulnerability assessments of the capacities of the Member States to face current or upcoming challenges at their external borders will be established. The Agency is able to launch joint operations, including the use of drones when necessary. The European Space Agency’s earth observation system Copernicus provides the new Agency with real time satellite surveillance capabilities alongside the current Eurosur border surveillance system.
ember States will be able to request joint operations, rapid border interventions, and deployment of the EBCG Teams to support national authorities when a Member State experiences an influx of migrants that endangers the Schengen area. In such a case, especially when a Member State’s action is not sufficient to handle the crisis, the Commission will have the authority to adopt an implementing decision that will determine whether a situation at a particular section of the external borders requires urgent action at the EU level. Based on this decision, the EBCGA will be able to intervene and deploy EBCG Teams to ensure that action is taken on the ground, even when a Member State is unable or unwilling to take the necessary measures.
The right to intervene is a point of contention between a number of EU Members and the Commission, especially those Members whose borders form the external borders of the EU, such as Greece, Hungary, Italy, and Poland. They want to ensure that intervention is possible only with the consent of the Member States, whose external borders necessitate the presence of the ECBGA. Greece’s Alternate Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis, stated in an interview that while Greece is supportive of a common European action and of changing Frontex’s mandate, it wants the ECBGA to take complete charge of migration and refugee flows.