Frontex budget: €17 million increase puts agency on "cruising speed"

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The 2015 budget of EU border agency Frontex has been increased by 17.5%, from €97 million to €114 million, with the largest share of the extra funding going towards Joint Operations at Sea Borders. [1]

According to the agency's Work Programme for 2015, published in December 2014, the budget is on "cruising speed". [2]

'Joint Operations and Pilot Projects at Sea Borders' receives the largest share of the €114 million budget, with €31 million or 27% of the total. In 2014, Joint Operations at Sea Borders was allocated €25 million. According to the Work Programme: "Strengthening the Member States' operational capacity to cover increased operational areas and implementation periods will enhance the tackling of irregular migration on routes identified by risk analysis."

The budget for Risk Analysis has also been increased, from €1.7 million in 2014, to over €2 million in 2015.

According to the Frontex Risk Analysis Network report for the third quarter of 2014, "almost 90% of the irregular migrants were reported from the sea border of the EU." [3]

The agency said in February that "the number of detections of illegal border-crossing in 2014 as a whole totalled about 278 000," nearly twice as many as the 141,000 detected in 2011. [4]

Budgets for joint operations elsewhere have also increased. €9.2 million will go towards Joint Operations at Land Borders (an increase of €120,000). Joint Operations at the Air Borders will receive an extra €400,000, bringing the total to €2.5 million.

In an attempt to further strengthen Frontex-led Joint Operations, Member States can now apply for funding under the new €2.76 billion Internal Security Fund for borders and visas (ISF-Borders). [5] Malta recently received €12 million from the fund to purchase a helicopter to be used in Joint Operations. [6]

Search and rescue

Following the tragedy in early February off the coast of Lampedusa in which nearly 300 people are estimated to have died, [7] questions remain as to whether the increased budget for Joint Operations at Sea Borders will significantly assist in saving lives.

The Italian-led Mare Nostrum naval operation, which has been ended, cost €9 million a month [8] and had a specific mandate for search and rescue operations. It has been followed by the Frontex-led Joint Operation Triton, the focus of which is "primarily border management." [9]

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, has stated his intention to expand the budget and functions of Frontex in the future, but it is not clear whether this will include a greater focus on search and rescue operations. [10]

Frontex has for the first time established training in search and rescue as well as a 'Search and Rescue On-Scene Coordinator', although according to the Work Programme plans for the latter are still in the exploratory phase.


The EU border surveillance system, EUROSUR, has also received a funding boost for 2015. €9.3 million will go towards "fully operationalising" the system, according to the Work Programme, an increase of €5.3 million. Other budgets will also contribute towards the running of EUROSUR.

Following the death of hundreds of people off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013, the European Commission was keen to promote EUROSUR as a tool for saving lives.

However, whether the system can do so has been questioned - it is not clear it can effectively detect small boats, and Frontex's deputy director has said that the myriad surveillance tools that make up EUROSUR do not provide information quickly enough to save lives.[11][12]

'Miscellaneous Operational Activities', awarded €107,000 in 2014, now has a staggering €10 million devoted to it. No information is currently available detailing what types of operations are involved in this.

Frontex has received the largest budget increase of any comparable EU agency. Eurojust, the agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, will receive just 0.41% more than 2014. [13] Europol received a comparable increase of 11.9%, though this is still not as substantive as the funds awarded to Frontex. [14] Meanwhile, the budget for the Fundamental Rights Agency has been decreased by 1%. [15]

Note: this article was corrected on 5 May to include the correct budget increase in percentage terms. It originally said Frontex's budget had increased by 16%.

[1] Frontex: Budget 2015, January 2015
[2] Frontex: Work Programme 2015, December 2014
[3] Frontex: Quarterly Report Q3 2014, Frontex Risk Analysis Network, February 2015
[4] Frontex: 'Latest Trends at external borders of the EU', Frontex news article 02 February 2015
[5] 'Eurosur extended: all participating states now connected to border surveillance system', Statewatch News Online, December 2014
[6] 'Malta allocated a further 12 million for Frontex equipment', Malta Today, 04 February 2015
[7] 'Hundreds of migrants feared dead in Mediterranean this week', The Guardian, 11 February 2015
[8] 'Italy: end of ongoing sea rescue mission puts thousands at risk', The Guardian, 31 October 2014
[9] 'Frontex launches call for participation of the EU Member States in Joint Operation Triton', Frontex news article, 26 September 2014
[10] Jean-Claude Juncker, 'My priorities' November 2014
[11] Chris Jones and Charles Heller, 'Eurosur: saving lives or reinforcing deadly borders?', Statewatch Journal, vol 23 no 3/4, February 2014
[12] Nikolaj Nielsen, 'EU border surveillance system not helping to save lives', EU Observer, 14 May 2014
[13] Council of the European Union, 'New draft budget of the European Union for the financial year 2015: Council position of 12 December 2014 - Technical annex (Commission expenditure: Detailed figures by policy area (Titles 21 to 40 and Total Commission)', 16739/14 ADD 6
[14] Europol: Budget 2015, December 2014
[15] Fundamental Rights Agency: Budget 2015, January 2015

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