Today, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG) was officially launched at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint of the Bulgarian-Turkish border
This border is the main path for migrants trying to enter the EU without crossing the Mediterranean sea.
This measure is part of the new European Agenda on Migration which aims to better manage the EU’s external borders. The long-term goal is to fully restore the passport-free Schengen Area.
The establishment of the (EBCG) was agreed upon at the end of 2015 following the peak of the migratory crisis. (After 1.5 million people crossed into the EU between January and November 2015).
This new agency is meant to remedy the weaknesses of Frontex, its predecessor. The European Commission had often claimed that Frontex had deep flaws preventing it to tackle the consequences of the migration crisis.
Its statement read “it is not able to purchase its own resources, it does not have its own operational staff and relies on member state contributions, it is unable to carry out its own return or border management operations without the prior request of a member state and it does not have an explicit mandate to conduct search and rescue operations.”
In order to meet those shortcomings, there will now be 1,500 officers from 19 member states available to be mobilised for the new agency in case of an emergency (ex: the sudden surge of migrants). The agency, will receive 320 million of euros until 2020 enabling it to be independent from member state to purchase its own resources.
It should now be able to monitor migratory flows, manage external borders of the EU, provide operational and technical assistance to Member States and support search and rescue operations.
It will also be able to tell member states how to best secure their outside borders. If the member state was to fail to properly secure their outside border they would risk being imposed internal border controls for up to six months to protect the Schengen area.
Five member states have already volunteered to undertake the agency’s tests in order to review their external borders’ situation.
It will also have the ability to deal with personal data of irregular migrants but also of persons suspected of smuggling, terrorism or human trafficking. It will share all of those information with Europol and the Member States in order to launch investigations.
Some other missions of the agency have been criticised by European NGOs for their vagueness. In the Commission’s report it was stated that the new Frontex would now “play an enhanced role in returns of third-country nationals who do not have the right to stay on the EU territory“. It was also stated that the agency would play a role in “voluntary departures”.
The new agency has been criticised for only dealing with the migration crisis regarding the well-functioning of the Schengen area, but not the well-being of the migrants.
Yet, this new agency is not going to solve everything for the Schengen area. Dr Watanabe, a senior researcher at the Centre for Security Studies, told Euractiv that in the absence of changes to the Dublin Principles – imposing that an asylum seekers’ application should be handled by the EU country in which he first arrives – no long term solution can be found as only some countries will suffer from the burden.
Brussels hopes this agency will increase the EU’s security and help appease the tensions between member states due to their different visions on the EU’s refugee crisis.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos claimed that “From now onwards, the external EU border of one member state is the external border of all member states — both legally and operationally”.
Today at least 13,000 migrants are still in Bulgaria, 60,000 in Greece and 140,000 have crossed the Mediterranean sea to reach to Italy this year.