Border Management Reform : Member States Cautious about New Regime

Europe-East, April 28, 2008 | Go to article overview

Border Management Reform : Member States Cautious about New Regime


The European Commission's far-reaching plans to beef up the protection of the Union's external borders have opened up deep divisions among EU member states. The split was exposed at a ministerial conference on external border management, held on 12 March in Slovenia.

The deepest rift, diplomats told Europolitics New Neighbours, appeared over the proposed reform of Frontex, the EU's agency responsible for coordination of border controls. Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini proposed, on 13 February, that Frontex, inaugurated in June 2005 and based in Warsaw, should play a much bigger role in the EU's border management. The proposal suggests that in the medium term, Frontex should focus on coordination of custom controls at the Union's external borders, which could, in the long term, lead to the agency overseeing fully-fledged European border guard corps.

That irked some member states. "The responsibility for border protection has to remain with national capitals. We do not want any EU border police'," a diplomat participating in the conference told Europolitics New Neighbours. He also slammed the evaluation of Frontex, which, according to Frattini, showed that the agency has been "a very useful instrument" in border management. "The reinforcement of Frontex, both financially and in terms of competence, is planned without any proper evaluation," the diplomat said.

ENTRY-EXIT SYSTEM

About the only agreement related to Frontex that the ministers were able to reach concerned its potential role for cooperation with third countries. However, they did not agree on its increased role in Schengen evaluations. "The new members say that selection of evaluators through Frontex will only benefit the old member states. They think that is unfair," another conference participant said.

At the moment, most EU members seem to support Frattini's proposal to explore the possibility of setting up an EU Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system, which would require third-country nationals to apply for an entry permit online days before they travel to Europe. …

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