In a move said to represent the biggest transfer of national sovereignty since the creation of the single currency, the European Union is to propose a standing European border force able to take control of the bloc’s external frontiers even when a national government objects.
Plans for a new permanent border force and coastguard deployed with the European Commission’s final say — replacements for the existing Frontex border agency — will be published next week, reports the Financial Times.
With opt-outs from the common EU migration policy in place Britain and Ireland would not have to take part, but the proposals represent a last desperate attempt to save the border-free Schengen zone by answering the call for common border policing repeatedly demanded by France and Germany.
The idea of a common European border force has been on the table for over 15 years, but national leaders have never yet been able to reconcile themselves with giving up their power to enforce their own borders. Indeed it recently took a threat to eject Greece from the Schengen zone before it felt able to agree to EU offers to send help aimed at securing Greek borders thus stemming the flow of migrants streaming towards Europe’s rich north.
The European Commission has been emboldened by a number of factors. First, the ongoing migration crisis has exposed the feeble nature of existing external border controls. Secondly, the suggestion that two suspected terrorists who carried out the Paris attacks were able to enter the EU as bogus refugees made its own case for strengthened external border checks.
Supporters of the proposals say the limitations of Frontex are now obvious, chiefly that it can only co-ordinate border protection, not enforce it, and is unable to deport those ruled to have no right to remain in Europe. It cannot even equip and employ its own border guards.
Although the plans envisage national capitals retaining control of their borders in normal circumstances, the new agency will be able to monitor national efforts and step in where the management board of the newly formed European Border and Coast Guard decides protection on offer is inadequate.
The proposed border force would even operate in those non-EU countries that are part of the Schengen zone — Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said:
“The refugee crisis has shown the limitations of the current EU border agency, Frontex, to effectively address and remedy the situation created by . . . the pressure on Europe’s external borders.”
He added that the proposed border force would “protect and strengthen Schengen”.