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Berlin and Paris 'want stronger Frontex'

December 6, 2015

Germany and France have called on the EU's executive body to strengthen the European border protection agency, Frontex, a German newspaper has reported. It says they want the agency to be given more autonomy to act.

Mitglieder von Frontex auf einem Schiff vor der Insel Lesbos Griechenland
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A.Palacios

The interior ministers of Germany and France wrote to the EU Commission saying there needed to be urgent reforms enacted to protect the EU's external borders and the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) if the Schengen visa-free travel zone was to continue to exist, according to a report in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung."

According to the report, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve urged the Commission to extend the Schengen Borders Code so that Frontex could itself decide to help control an external border if it deemed there to be a sufficient risk that it was not being properly managed.

EU Innenministertreffen Brüssel Thomas de Maiziere und Bernard Cazeneuve
Cazeneuve (l.) and de Maiziere are spearheading the drive for a stronger FrontexImage: Getty Images/AFP/E. Dunand

The paper reported that they also suggested allowing Frontex to take the initiative in deploying emergency border protection teams in exceptional circumstances.

Under the Code as it currently stands, the Commission can only recommend that a member state accept help in controlling its borders but not force it to do so.

Greece's migrant plight

The recommendation from de Maiziere and Cazeneuve comes as EU member Greece is struggling to cope with a massive influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey.

On Thursday, Athens, in the face of warnings that it might find itself effectively shut out from the Schengen zone if it failed to defend its borders, finally agreed to accept help from Frontex at its frontier with non-EU state Macedonia. It also requested emergency resources and border guard support for Aegean islands where many migrants land.

Greichenland Flüchtlinge auf Lesbos
Many migrants have made the perilous crossing to Greek islands, with thousands dying in the attemptImage: Getty Images/AFP/B. Kilic

A failure to manage the EU's external borders could lead to individual countries imposing more border controls, risking the collapse of the Schengen zone, in which people allowed to live in or visit one member country can freely travel to any other nation in the 26-state bloc.

De Maiziere already said on Friday that he was expecting an EU Commission proposal due on December 15 to suggest giving Frontex the responsibility for controlling external EU frontiers if a member state failed to do so.

The Frontex role at present is largely to coordinate national border agencies.

Prolonged border controls?

The EU is currently facing the largest movement of migrants since World War Two, with some 950,000 people having reached Europe so far this year, many fleeing conflict in the Middle East, particularly Syria.

Germany, Austria and Sweden have all put in place temporary border controls to cope with the influx, but under the Schengen agreement, such measures are allowed only for a period of up to six months.

EU interior ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels this week that longer borders controls could be made possible at certain border segments in cases of "serious deficiencies" that threaten the freedoms of the Schengen zone.

tj/sms (Reuters, dpa)

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