Improving the management of the EU's external border is no longer just an aim, it is an emergency, according to an EESC opinion adopted today. But this should not be done at the detriment of fundamental human rights, notably the right to asylum and the right to free movement in the EU.
The Committee, while calling for a strengthened mandate for the Frontex agency, does not support the European Commission's proposal to establish systematic checks on EU citizens at the external borders of the European Union, as this would dramatically affect the fundamental right to free movement. Instead, the EESC proposes to reinforce and consolidate the Schengen rules by applying them uniformly across all Member States and by jointly (EU and Member States) managing the external borders.
This new form of border management must go hand in hand with a transformation of the Frontex agency into a "European Border Guard", as proposed by the European Commission. This agency should have the right to intervene – upon Commission decision - in case of emergencies. The EESC proposes to strictly limit this intervention right to well-defined emergencies and to frame them with a duty to report and inform the European Parliament and Council of the EU.
"The European Border Guard should be empowered to effectively manage the EU border and support Member States dealing with overwhelming migration pressure. In return, the Agency should be governed in a transparent manner and there should be more accountability to the EU Member States and citizens", said Giuseppe Iuliano (GII, Italy), EESC rapporteur on the issue.
The Border Guard must be akin to a civilian police force, not a military force, adds the EESC in its opinion. The European Border Guard should be well trained and organised in order to fulfil its key missions: to rescue people and provide adequate care in respect of fundamental human rights and of the principle of "non-refoulement".
The Committee is particularly alarmed by the plight of thousands of abandoned and unprotected unaccompanied minors. It calls on the Commission to urgently adopt protective measures and on the current border authorities to wake up to their obligation of assistance.
To secure a proper protection of fundamental rights by the European Border Guard, the EESC suggests that the Committee be represented at the Agency's Consultative Forum and to strengthen the role of its Fundamental Rights Officer.
Finally, the EESC insists that only a true common asylum system and EU Migration policy will deliver on EU's commitments towards fundamental rights for people in need and EU citizens.
"Fundamental rights are for everyone, not just for EU citizens", reminded Cristian Pîrvulescu (GIII – Romania), co-rapporteur on the EESC opinion. "Today, we are deeply concerned about the situation of migrants whose rights are undermined at the very borders of the EU."
• Resolution of the EESC in support the Schengen Agreement, 17 February 2016
• Opinion of the EESC on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing "an EU common list of safe countries of origin", 10 December 2015
• Opinion of the EESC "A European Agenda on Migration", 10 December 2015
For more information, please contact:
Caroline ALIBERT-DEPREZ, EESC Press Unit
E-mail: presseesc [dot] europa [dot] eu
Tel: + 32 2 546 9406 / +32 475 75 32 02