The European Commission has adopted a proposal of M. Antonio VITORINO, Commissioner responsible for Justice and Home Affairs, for a Council Regulation establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders (land borders, maritime borders and international airports) of the European Union. The Agency will assist Member States in implementing Community legislation in the fields of control and surveillance of the external borders and return of third-country nationals. It will not have a policy-making role, nor would it make legislative proposals or exercise implementing powers.
The creation of the Agency constitutes a concrete and important step towards achieving solidarity between Member States in the field of the management of the external borders.
The main objective of Community policy in the field of the EU external borders is to create an integrated border management, which would ensure a high and uniform level of control and surveillance, an essential prerequisite for an area of freedom, security and justice. With the integration of the Schengen acquis into the framework of the EU, such common rules on the control and surveillance of external borders already exist at Community level.
The objective of this Regulation is, thus, to render more effective the implementation of Community policy on the management of the external borders by better co-ordinating the operational co-operation between the Member States via the creation of an Agency. The mission of this Agency would be to facilitate the application of existing and future Community measures relating to the management of the external borders by ensuring the co-ordination of Member States' actions in the implementation of those measures.
The main tasks of the Agency are:
Co-ordination of the operational co-operation between Member States in the field of control and surveillance of the external borders.
- Rendering assistance to Member States on training of their national border guards by providing training at European level for national instructors of border guards, as well as holding seminars and offering additional training to officers of national border guards.
- Carrying out of general and tailored risk assessments.
- Follow-up on developments in research relevant for the control and surveillance of the external borders.
- Rendering assistance to Member States confronted with circumstances requiring increased operational and technical assistance at the external borders.
- Co-ordination of operational co-operation between Member States on removal of third-country nationals illegally residing in Member States.
The Agency shall co-operate directly with Member States and co-ordinate all joint operations and pilot projects at the external borders.
The Agency shall establish its own specialised branches responsible for dealing with the specific aspects of control and surveillance of land, air, and maritime borders by transforming the existing, more informal, centres' structure into a Community structure.
The specialised branches are, as local offices of the Agency, an integrated part of structure of the Agency. They shall report to and take instructions from the Agency.
Member States may submit proposals for joint operations and pilot projects to the Agency for evaluation and approval. When deciding on the proposals, the Agency shall emphasise on their relevance, compatibility and added value. In addition, the Agency may decide itself to launch initiatives for joint operations and pilot projects with the Member States. The Agency operates through its specialised branches for the operational organisation of such joint operations and pilot projects.
It should be stressed that the staff of the Agency, including the national experts detached by Member States, as a starting point, does not have any law enforcing competencies in Member States and consequently does not carry out actual controls at the external borders.
As for the funding of operations, the Agency may decide to co-finance joint operations and pilot projects proposed and carried out by Member States. It shall evaluate the results of operations and projects and make a comparative analysis thereof with a view to enhancing the quality of future operations.
The horizontal matters (training for border guards, risk analysis and follow-up on research) will be carried out by the Agency alone.
Concerning the co-ordination and organisation of joint return operations, the Agency will provide Member States with the necessary technical support in organising joint return operations, e.g. by developing a network of contact points to that end, by keeping an up-to-date inventory of existing and available resources and facilities, or by preparing specific guidelines and recommendations on joint return operations.
As mentioned above, the Agency can assist Member States confronted with circumstances requiring increased technical and operational assistance at the external borders on co-ordination matters. It can also deploy its own experts and technical equipment in the Member State(s) concerned. However, the experts will have a purely consultative role and not participate actively in strictly law enforcing activities.
The operations of the Agency should start by the beginning of 2005. It should have a staff of about 30 persons and its budget would amount to 6M € in 2005 and 10M € in 2006, corresponding to a first phase of activities.
In the field of the EU external borders, Community policy aims at an integrated management, thereby ensuring a high and uniform level of control of persons and surveillance at the external borders as a prerequisite for an area of freedom, security and justice. This objective of an integrated border management requires, as foreseen by Article 62 (2) (a) of the Treaty, the establishment of common rules as to the standards and procedures to be followed by Member States when controlling the external borders.
Given that the Member States are responsible for implementing, at an operational level, such common rules, Community policy would inevitably benefit from an increased co-ordination of their activities with regard to control and surveillance of the external borders.
In the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament with the title "Towards integrated management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union" from 7 May 2002, the Commission advocated the setting up of an "External borders practitioners' common unit" tasked with managing operational co-operation at the external borders of the Member States.
The Plan for the management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union (the Plan) agreed by the Council on 13 June 2002 endorsed the setting up of an external borders practitioners' common unit (the Common Unit) as a means to establish an integrated management of the external borders.
In its report to the Council on the implementation of programmes, ad hoc centres, pilot projects and joint operations from 11 June 2003, the Greek Presidency concluded that with regard to the pilot projects and joint operations, the absence of a monitoring mechanism and of a method for independent and thorough evaluation as well as for the processing and utilisation of results was particularly evident. The Presidency accordingly called for an examination of the necessity of a new institutional structure in order to enhance operational co-operation for the management of external borders.
In the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council in view of the European Council of Thessaloniki on the development of a common policy on illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking of human beings, external borders and the return of illegal residents from 3 June 2003, the Commission pointed out, that the Common Unit has shown structural limits with regard to the co-ordination of the operational co-operation at the external borders. The Commission therefore proposed that certain more strategic co-ordination tasks could remain with the Common Unit, whereas the more operational tasks could be entrusted to a new permanent Community structure able to exercise day-to-day management and co-ordination tasks and to respond in time to emergency situations.
The Thessaloniki European Council at its meeting on 19 and 20 June 2003, endorsed the above mentioned Council Conclusions of 5 June 2003, and invited the Commission to examine the necessity of creating new institutional mechanisms, including the possible creation of a Community operational structure, in order to enhance operational co-operation for the management of external borders.
In the conclusions of the European Council on 16 and 17 October 2003, the European Council welcomes the Commission's intention to present a proposal for an Agency for the management of external borders, in time for the Council to reach political agreement on its main elements by the end of the year.
This proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders intends to meet that invitation of the European Council. It takes into account the experiences of co-operation between the Member States in the framework of the Common Unit from which the Agency shall take over the co-ordination of the operational co-operation.