European Parliament Frontex Scrutiny Group

Purpose: Initial four-month enquiry on the respect by Frontex of human rights in operations in the Aegean.


By Ilaria Aversa and Mariana Gkliati - 6 March 2021

Investigative body: European Parliament, LIBE Committee, Special Scrutiny Group on Frontex

Members: two members of each Party represented in the European Parliament:

EPP: Ms Roberta Metsola and Ms Lena Düpont; S&D: Ms Bettina Vollath and Mr Javier Moreno Sanchez; Renew: Mr Malik Azmani and Mr Dragos Tudorache; ID: Mr Nicolas Bay and Mr Peter Kofod; GREENS/EFA: Mr. Erik Marquardt and Ms Tineke Strik; ECR: Mr Patryk Tomas Jaki and Mr Jorge Buxadé Villalba; The Left - GUE/NGL: Ms Sira Rego and Ms Cornelia Ernst.

Started: February, 2021

Status: Ongoing

 

Summary of First Session of Scrutiny Group:
In its first session on 5 March, the Scrutiny Group questioned Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

The MEPs’ questions concerned the monitoring and reporting mechanisms of the agency, the legal framework concerning border management and search and rescue, and their commitment to cooperate with the investigation of the Scrutiny Group and implement that recommendations this body will issue.

ED Leggeri main points:

  • “I am personally committed to cooperating with the Scrutiny Group. You will be granted access to the documents that you need and I offer the possibility for the members of the Scrutiny Group to visit the headquarters”
  • “The recruitment for new Fundamental Rights Officer is ongoing and the new one is expected in March. The 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors are expected at the end of March - beginning April, according to interim Fundamental Rights Officer. It is important that they are recruited at the highest possible grade.”
  • “Termination of operations (in Greece) is the last step. We have suspension. We can reduce the operational footprint, what I did in Hungary in 2017. But this was not communicated well. We need to improve the communication.”
  • “In Hungary [...] the risk is that by design (of the Hungarian Legislation that is not complying with EU standards) Frontex would participate in violations. This is the difference with Greece.”

Commissioner Johansson main points:

  • “Frontex is the most important agency in the European Union. With such power also comes responsibility.”
  • “Protecting our borders and our values go hand in hand. Shortcomings should be urgently addressed. I am happy to hear that many things are being addressed now.”
  • “The Commission cannot give guidance to the agency or the ED. This is the responsibility of the Management Board and the Commission only has two seats in it.”
  • “It is not the role of the Commission to interpret the legal aspects. This is the role of the Court of Justice. But we will make some clarification on: illegal entry, possibility to apply for asylum, and that no one should be refouled.”
  • “The role of the Commission is to ensure that agency have the best possibilities to carry out their role and comply with the Regulation.”
  • “I have the political responsibility over Frontex, but we don’t have competence to issue guidance or instructions. I am responsible for how the 2 Commission representative in the Management Board operate."
  • “I am very concerned that we have repeated reports from reliable sources about illegal and sometimes violent push-backs in Greece [...] but this is for another discussion for another time.”

Recording of the First Session of the Scrutiny Group

European Parliament (2021) Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

Relevant documents:

Statewatch: EU: Pushbacks scandal: Internal letters shed light on Frontex’s fundamental rights recruitment failures

Statewatch: EU: Pushbacks scandal: Frontex correspondence with national and EU authorities

 

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