What's involved in reinforcing the EU's external borders?
On Wednesday 6 July MEPs approved plans to set up an EU border control system aiming to secure the EU’s external borders and to restore the functioning of the Schengen area. Our Facebook followers had the chance to ask all about it during our live interview with Parliament's lead negotiator Artis Pabriks, a Latvian member of the EPP group. Read on to find out what he had to say and watch the interview.
Last year there were 1.8 million illegal crossings into the EU compared to just over 280,00 the year before. Parliament followers asked how the new plans, which includes setting up an EU Border and Coast Guard, would help EU countriest to manage their borders. Pabriks said that if an EU country experienced issues with migration or cross-border crime they could ask the other member states for assistance: "Within the next five to seven days it would be able to get assistance with 1,500 rapid reaction border guards and their technical equipment. It's the first time in EU history."
Pabriks said the new agency would not take any political decisions on behalf of member states, but only assist them so there was no need to be concerned that countries' sovereignty was being affected: "Nobody is abolishing the responsibility of a member country to defend (...) its own borders."
However, under the new rules EU countries can take action collectively should one member state not be able to secure its own borders and be unwilling to accept any help. Pabriks said in that case the country would be undermining the security of other member states, which is why they could decide to temporarily install border controls between them and this country.
It is now up to the Council to approve the proposal before it can enter into force. Pabriks said the agency could be operational within four months and that he hoped that it would already start this year.