Frontex: thumbs-up for the "Management Board Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal and Operational Aspects of Operations"

Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of Frontex, has signalled his approval for a working group set up by the agency's Management Board that will look into recent allegations of pushbacks at the Greek-Turkish border taking place with the agency's knowledge. However, the main focus of the working group seems to be the issue of "hybrid threats" to internal security. The relationship between the agency's alleged involvement in illegal activity and the possible existence of "hybrid threats" is unclear.


The Working Group was established via a Management Board Decision on 26 November 2020. Representatives from eight member states, plus the European Commission, will participate in the group. A representative of the Hungarian state - not known for a generous attitude to the rights of migrants and refugees - is amongst them.

Members of the group:

  1. Germany
  2. Hellenic Republic (Greece)
  3. Hungary
  4. Norway
  5. Romania
  6. Sweden
  7. Switzerland
  8. France
  9. European Commission

See: MANAGEMENT BOARD DECISION 39/2020 26 November 2020 on the establishment of the Management Board Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal and Operational Aspects of Operations (pdf)

The statement below was originally published by Frontex on 26 November here.

Frontex welcomes establishment of Management Board Working Group

The Executive Director of Frontex welcomed the establishment of a Management Board Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal and Operational Aspects of Operations.

Frontex has proposed to update the reporting mechanism for serious incidents to assure that no potential violation of fundamental rights within the agency’s operational activities goes unreported.

 “We have now completed two important stages of looking into allegations of so-called pushbacks in the Eastern Mediterranean by conducting our own internal inquiry and replying to further questions from the Management Board,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

“The working group will review the implementation of the existing Serious Incident Reporting mechanism and discuss possible operational responses to situations related to ‘hybrid threats’ to Member States’ national security at the external borders, wherever we are physically present and have an operational footprint,” he added.

In addition, the working group will help to clarify the interpretation of the legal framework under which maritime operations coordinated by Frontex are performed, also in the context of growing hybrid threats.

Below please find the statement by the Chairperson of the Frontex Management Board

Statement of the Chairperson of the Frontex Management Board from its 82nd meeting

The Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) met yesterday and today for its 82nd meeting. Among other topics, the Board followed up on the fundamental-rights related discussions from its extraordinary meeting held on 10 November 2020 and in particular on the allegations of so-called pushbacks in the Eastern Mediterranean recently reported in the media. These discussions were held in the presence of the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Officer, the Agency’s Consultative Forum, the Fundamental Rights Agency and an expert from the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament.

The Executive Director reported on the questions received from several members of the Board and provided some preliminary replies. On request by the European Commission, the Board will hold a further extraordinary meeting within the next two weeks in order to consider in more detail the replies provided by the Agency. As concluded in the extraordinary meeting of 10 November, the Management Board adopted the mandate of its dedicated working group. It shall support the Board in its conduction of inquiries in relation to the allegations of so-called alleged pushbacks in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2020 but also contribute to the interpretation of some provisions of Union regulations related to operational activities at sea and to discuss possible operational responses to situations related to “hybrid threats” to Member States’ national security at the external borders which may arise in the context of maritime operations of the Agency. The Working Group was requested to report to the Management Board at the 83rd meeting of the Management Board on 20-21 January 2021.

The Management Board was also updated on the state of play for the preparation of the EBCG standing corps for their first deployment as of 1 January 2021. The Chair called on the Agency and Member States to make all the efforts to complete their contributions to the standing corps in accordance with the capacities indicated in Annex 1 of the EBCG Regulation for year 2021.

Further reading

24 November 2020

Greek authorities ordered pushback to Turkey, documents show


17 November 2020

Frontex: will a Management Board "sub-group" find the truth about pushbacks?


27 October 2020

Frontex to carry out "internal inquiry" into allegations of direct involvement in pushbacks

 

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