The European Parliament today voted in favour of significantly expanding the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The expansion will include the creation of a standing corps of up to 10,000 operational staff to help better manage the EU’s external borders.
S&D Group MEP, Péter Niedermüller who negotiated the new rules on behalf of the Parliament said:
“It has been clear for years that the EU needs a more joined up approach to managing its external borders. The European Border and Coast Guard has an important role to play, supporting and helping coordinate member states’ work. With this strengthening of the Agency, we have ensured that it has the budget, the staff and the powers to manage this effectively. The first priority of the Agency must be to support member states in preventing more needless death in the Mediterranean.
“As the Agency is being granted new powers, these must also come with new responsibilities. Our Group pushed hard to ensure that this ensured greater transparency and accountability and that it was not given tasks that fell well beyond its remit. We made sure the agency will play no role in returning people from one third country to another third country, something right-wing groups had pushed for. This was a dangerous proposal and we ensured it was not in the final agreement.”
S&D spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, Birgit Sippel added:
“The Schengen passport free area is one of the great success stories of the European Union and a symbol for a united Europe. For it to function effectively, we need to have well managed external borders. This is not just an issue for national governments but also something that affects all EU citizens. These new proposals must go together with finally ending the supposedly temporary internal border controls within the EU.
“Our migration strategy must be based on a full respect for the fundamental rights of people arriving in Europe. We fought hard to enhance the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer, who is responsible for ensuring that rights of migrants are protected. We have ensured that they will have an adequate budget and staff to perform their role.
“Securing Europe’s borders is only one element in fixing the EU’s broken asylum and migration policy. The current rules leave countries on Europe's borders, such as Italy and Greece, to face the majority of asylum cases alone, and allow other countries to shirk their humanitarian responsibilities. National governments must finally adopt the proposals for a fairer system that both the European Parliament and Commission have proposed. They must also recognise that you cannot do more with less and the increase in responsibility for the European and Coast Guard Agency must be matched by more money in the EU budget to fund it.”