A fair Europe starts at its borders

In an opinion adopted at its September plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) took a closer look at the European Integrated Border Management Strategy (EIBM), emphasising the need for a shared strategy, improved coordination, and fundamental rights protection in European border management.

Ensuring the effectiveness of European border management is not only a matter of security. It is also about making sure we uphold the values that the European Union is based on.

The EESC firmly believes that we need a clear plan to improve the process at our external borders. Such a plan would not just protect our internal security and the safety of all EU residents, but would also serve as a guardian of the fundamental rights that underpin the principle of free movement within the EU.

The EIBM aims to enhance coordination between EU agencies and instruments and those of the Member States tasked with border management responsibilities. This must include a robust focus on information exchange and the cultivation of a common border culture guaranteeing the protection of human rights. To ensure the successful implementation of the strategy, the EESC emphasises the need for the effective presence of Frontex fundamental rights monitors.

While national border institutions play a pivotal role, the EESC raises a significant concern that the strategy fails to specify the commitments of national border institutions. In the light of this, the Committee recommends that the Commission require each Member State to develop a tailored fundamental rights plan in the area of border management.

Cristian Pîrvulescu, the rapporteur for the opinion, and José Antonio Moreno Diaz, the co-rapporteur, consider it important that the European Integrated Border Management framework be used to require from each Member State a fundamental rights plan in the area of border management, complementing Frontex's activities. They stress that we need effective and realistic legal and secure migration pathways to the EU to facilitate a balanced migration policy.

The EESC regrets that in the EIBM, the practice of pushbacks is not properly acknowledged and tackled. The Committee asks the Commission to devise clear plans in this respect and require national border institutions to avoid these unacceptable practices.

Respect for fundamental rights is a legal obligation for all EU and national institutions and should be treated accordingly. Under no circumstances should EU foreign policy or cooperation policy be conditional on the cooperation of countries of origin in return and readmission processes.