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Frontex: proposals to reinforce EU border agency may be published in early September
23.7.18
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Legal proposals to further increase the size and powers of the EU border agency Frontex could be published as soon as early September, according to an internal Council working document.

The document, produced by the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, provides an update on ongoing work to implement the conclusions of the 28 June meeting of the European Council.

See: Working paper: Updated follow-up to the European Council meeting of 28 June 2018 (WK 8327/2018 INIT, LIMITE, 10 July 2018, pdf)

Those conclusions called for reinforced support for the Libyan Coast Guard, exploring the idea of setting up "disembarkation platforms" in non-EU countries and "controlled centres" within the EU, and changing the legal framework surrounding deportations, amongst other things.

Frontex reform

Regarding the forthcoming amendment of Frontex's legal basis (which was last reformed less than two years ago), the working document says:

"It is understood these proposals will be presented around the same time as the Commission President's State of the Union Speech (SOTEU), expected on 12 September 2018.

A first discussion on some of these issues takes place in the working party on integration, migration and expulsion (IMEX) on 10 July 2018."

The 10 July meeting of that working party (Council of the EU, link to pdf) included on the agenda "legislative proposals for a more effective and coherent European return policy" and "implementation of [Frontex] tasks in the area of return."

Support for the Libyan Coastguard and more

The conclusions promised to "stand by Italy and other frontline states" in order to intensify "efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya or elsewhere", as well as committing to "step up support for the Sahel region, the Libyan Coastguard, coastal and Southern communities."

They further demanded that (emphasis added): "All vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and not obstruct operations of the Libyan Coastguard."

According to the working document, the European Commission "and the lead Member States, together with the EEAS, should take forward efforts to ensure the follow-up on all routes," with any "additional short-term needs for support" communicated to Coreper (the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the Council) and to the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) - further information on the IPCR here (Eur-Lex, link).

"Disembarkation platforms"

The European Council conclusions also called "on the Council and the Commission to swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of international law and without creating a pull factor."

Some documentation produced by the European Commission, as well as the International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR, was published at the end of June and early in July.

The Council working document says (emphasis added):

"...the Commission, in dialogue with the Council, will continue contacts with the UNHCR and IOM on the concept of regional disembarkation platforms. Before the end of July, the Commission will provide Coreper with a state of play on the development of the concept.

It is only when the concept is sufficiently developed, that contacts will be established with relevant third countries. Meanwhile, all actors should be cautious in their communication. Contacts with relevant third countries will be established by (groups of) Member States, notably those which entertain privileged relationships with them, in close cooperation with the Presidency, the Commission and the EEAS. Coreper will be regularly kept informed of those contacts. In that context, the question of incentives will have to be developed."

The Libyan authorities recognised by the EU have already rejected the idea (The Guardian, link).

"Controlled centres"

This appears to be a euphemism for detention centres funded by the European Commission in Member States willing to establish them - the European Council conclusions referred to "controlled centres set up in Member States, only on a voluntary basis, where rapid and secure processing would allow, with full EU support, to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply."

It should be noted that international and EU law regarding refugees and international protection is the first thing that should apply, notwithstanding that the "principle of solidarity" is also necessary.

The working document says that: "The Commission is to specify first and foremost the scope and form of "full EU support" to be provided to those Member States interested in setting up controlled centres on their territory," while any interested Member States are encouraged to "step forward".

Other issues

The document also provides updates on the other issues contained in the European Council conclusions, including: reinforcing the EU's border control policies; releasing more money for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey; establishing a "partnership with Africa aiming at a substantial socio-economic transformation of the African continent"; ensuring "dedicated, significant components for external migration management" in the next internal security and border control budgets; dealing with "secondary movements" within the Schengen area; and the ongoing (and stalled) debates on the Common European Asylum System.

See: Working paper: Updated follow-up to the European Council meeting of 28 June 2018 (WK 8327/2018 INIT, LIMITE, 10 July 2018, pdf)

Further reading

European Council on migration: documentation and reactions to the "summit of shame" (2 July 2018)

UN sets conditions for EU 'disembarkation platforms' - full-text of the letter from the IOM and UNHCR (3 July 2018)

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