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Procedure : 2010/0039(COD)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0278/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0278/2011

Debates :

PV 13/09/2011 - 4
CRE 13/09/2011 - 4

Votes :

PV 13/09/2011 - 5.2
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0344

Debates
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

4. European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX) (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Simon Busuttil, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX) (COM(2010)0061 - C7-0045/2010 - 2010/0039(COD)) (A7-0278/2011).

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil, rapporteur. – Madam President, this is the most important overhaul of the law which established Frontex in 2004, and Parliament greatly welcomes it.

The establishment of the agency in 2004 coincided with the start of a massive flow of migration towards Europe via different routes. First via Spain, and, in particular, the Canary Islands; then via Italy, and the Italian island of Lampedusa, and Malta; later via Greece, and so on and so forth. So, in a way, this agency was asked to start running before it could walk. Therefore, all in all, our assessment of the first six years of experience of the agency is that it needs to be strengthened and made more effective because, despite all good intentions, it has not lived up to expectations so far.

This proposal to change the law was presented by the Commission, and already in the Commission proposal we had extremely good ideas which were certainly good steps forward. I hope that Parliament has improved on this proposal with the help of the Hungarian Presidency, in particular, and the Council of Ministers continues to build on these good points.

If I had to synthesise the contribution of Parliament, I would divide it into four points. I will say something about each.

The first point is that we tried to increase the visibility of the agency. We did this, in particular, by giving the border guards engaged in Frontex missions the name they really deserve. They should be called ‘European border guards’, and therefore we have given this new name to people who, fair enough, will be national border guards coming from national services, but will be participating in European missions under Frontex. For that reason, they should be called European border guards, rather than unintelligible phrases such as ‘Frontex joint support teams’ or, worse, ‘rapid border intervention teams’: ‘RABITS’!

Within one year, the Commission has promised to look at the feasibility of actually going that one step further along the path towards the establishment of European border guards proper.

The second area where we have made a contribution relates to strengthening the effectiveness of the agency; here, we focused on compulsory solidarity. This means that once a Member State decides – and commits itself – to pool a number of border guards or make some equipment, such as vessels, planes or helicopters, available to the agency, it will now be legally obliged to honour its promises. That was not previously the case, which explains to a large extent why the agency was not deemed to be effective in its missions, because when it turned to the Member States, they did not deliver.

The agency will also be able to purchase, lease, own or even co-own its own equipment from now on. Of course, we do not expect it to have an army of sorts by any means, but we want the agency to have basic equipment which will enable it to engage in missions, especially in emergencies. We will also give the agency the power to process personal data – under strict conditions – if this can help it in the fight against crime.


On human rights – which was a key point for this Parliament – we have agreed on important improvements to the Commission proposal. For instance, any Frontex mission where a violation of human rights occurs will now be suspended or terminated. We will also appoint a fundamental rights officer in the agency and a consultative forum on human rights, and we will monitor return operations in terms of human rights.


Finally, we will also increase the democratic scrutiny of the agency, which will therefore be held increasingly accountable to Parliament. Madam President, that is already a mouthful, and I will stop my introduction at this point. I very much look forward to this debate and, hopefully, I will come back to some points later.

 
  
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  Jerzy Miller, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Madam President, Commissioner, honourable Members, the Council welcomes the agreement which has been reached on amendment of Council Regulation No 2007/2004 establishing a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, or Frontex.

The European Parliament and the Council have called several times in the last few years for Frontex to be strengthened. Recent events in North Africa and the resultant increased influx of immigrants across the European Union’s southern maritime borders have also demonstrated the great importance of strengthening the agency’s operational capabilities. In a declaration adopted on 11 March this year, the European Council called for agreement to be reached quickly on strengthening Frontex’s capabilities, and in the conclusions of 25 March, it called for agreement to be reached by June this year. The fact that it has been possible to meet this deadline for completion of this work is the result of intensive efforts both in the Council and in Parliament and also of the negotiations between our two institutions. Both institutions had to compromise in many areas to achieve a satisfactory result. I should like particularly to call attention to and express my thanks for the efforts of the Hungarian Presidency and the European Parliament’s negotiating team under the leadership of the rapporteur, Mr Busuttil.

Following its establishment in October 2005, Frontex quickly began operations, and currently plays a key role in leading operational cooperation at the European Union’s external borders. The agency coordinates a number of joint operations and pilot projects at the EU’s external borders, concentrating, in particular, on several high risk areas, such as the Union’s southern maritime borders.

Amendment of the regulation is an important step. It significantly extends the agency’s responsibilities. In a number of areas, it puts the agency in a better position to be able to carry out both its current and its new roles in better ways. This includes setting up European border guard teams – previously named ‘joint support teams’, and Rabits, or ‘rapid border intervention teams’ – as a joint resource available for use in all Frontex operations. It also contains improved provisions on funding and ensuring the availability of appropriate technical crew and staffing resources. Frontex will also be mandated to pay special attention to Member States which are experiencing specific and disproportionate pressures on their asylum systems. The amended regulation contains improved provisions on the protection of fundamental rights, including the establishment of a consultative forum on fundamental rights and the designation of a fundamental rights officer. The code of conduct will guarantee respect for fundamental rights, and in cases of human rights violations, Frontex operations will have to be suspended or terminated.

In addition, provisions will be introduced concerning processing by the agency of personal data collected in the course of its operations. The agency’s capacity to carry out risk analyses will be improved, to enable a faster reaction to new and emerging situations. Furthermore, new provisions will be introduced on training and research. The agency’s coordinating role has been strengthened in relation to joint return operations and the possibility of launching technical assistance projects and delegating liaison officers to third countries.

The Presidency is in no doubt that the change in Frontex’s mandate will significantly strengthen its operational capabilities. I would like to express my profound satisfaction that the European Union’s external borders are to be managed with greater efficiency. I am pleased, too, with the Commission’s commitment to conduct a feasibility study on the creation of a European system of border guards. This will allow the process of strengthening European Union policy on border management to develop in the next few years. Permit me, Madam President, to conclude by thanking Parliament again for its constructive approach to this resolution. I am counting on confirmation of the outcome of our negotiations at today’s vote. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I would like to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Busuttil, for his work, as well as the shadow rapporteurs, and also the last troika – the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies – for the efforts made so that we can come to a vote today on this very important matter.

Without effective border management, the Schengen system cannot function effectively and the security of the EU may be put at risk. We have seen increasing challenges in recent years. Some Member States have been exposed to considerable migratory pressures at their external borders, and this must be dealt with in a spirit of solidarity and common responsibility. At the same time, of course, we must make sure that people who turn to Europe seeking protection are dealt with in a way that is in compliance with our values and with international laws and standards.

The effective management of Member States’ external borders must be continuously improved to respond to the new challenges. Weaknesses at some sections of the border must be tackled. Our citizens need to be reassured that external border controls are working properly. This is, of course, primarily the Member States’ responsibility, but Frontex and the European Union can contribute substantially to achieving these goals, and we have seen increased demand by Member States for the services of Frontex since its establishment in 2005. Frontex has also been involved in many very important projects and operations lately in Greece and also, with the Hermes operation, in Italy, where Frontex is helping to assist the authorities as well as actually saving lives at sea.

Based on a number of evaluations, but also on the desire of the European Council and the European Parliament to improve and strengthen the legal framework of the agency, we at the Commission identify proposals, and submitted one almost 18 months ago now. It was also important for the Commission to be very clear on the human rights responsibilities of Frontex to ensure its continued legitimacy.

The strengthening of Frontex had different connotations for different stakeholders. Member States are looking to increase financial resources, while Parliament wanted to improve the availability of technical resources and strengthen respect for fundamental rights, so it took us some time to negotiate this. But now we have reached a high-quality compromise that, I think, stresses the correct balance between the different interests in play. I am confident that the new regulation will enhance the work of the agency, especially through the European border guard teams, which will consolidate the EU character of this work.

The requirement for Member States to honour their promises regarding human rights is being strengthened. I would like to thank the rapporteur and Parliament for their support in ensuring that Frontex should only carry out joint operations if the necessary guarantees are provided regarding absolute respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the right to international protection of those in need. I think the requirement for Member States to honour their promises regarding the human and technical resources they put at the disposal of the agency will also enable the agency to better plan and conduct joint operations.

In addition, Frontex-funded return operations will be monitored to ensure objective and transparent criteria. To that end, the Commission is providing today, for inclusion in the minutes, a Commission declaration on the monitoring of return operations. The monitoring of returns, the clauses allowing the agency to suspend or terminate joint operations, and the creation of a consultative forum and a fundamental rights officer, are all major steps forward.

The strengthening of the operation and capability of the agency, including the possibility for the agency to acquire its own equipment, will put it in a position to cope in a cost-effective manner with the ever-increasing demands of Member States for it to coordinate border control activities and return operations. Furthermore, the changes mean Frontex will also have a mandate to process personal data obtained during operations coordinated by the agency to use in the fight against crime and human trafficking.

Controlling external borders is only one aspect of border management. Cooperation with countries of origin or transit is another. This regulation will enhance cooperation with the relevant authorities in third countries, and the agency will have the possibility of providing technical assistance to relevant third countries to increase the level of cooperation.

If a decision is taken today, I think all three institutions can be proud. We have achieved a framework and laid the ground for a more effective, more operational, more visible and more legitimate Frontex Agency. I would like to thank everybody involved.

 
  
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  Barbara Lochbihler, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.(DE) Madam President, we in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, in particular, in the Subcommittee on Human Rights, have worked intensively on the report and on improving Frontex. We have tabled a highly comprehensive catalogue of measures for how Frontex’s work can be designed and improved in conformance with human rights.

As Commissioner Malmström stated, things could not go on as before. Too little was known about how Frontex works, and the agency did not enjoy a good standing in the media and in the individual Member States. It was very often asked how it can be that thousands of people are drowning and no one comes to their rescue. A few journalists and refugee organisations have also documented failures to even render assistance.

I think it should be viewed in a positive light that we have now nonetheless achieved a situation, at Parliament’s proposal, whereby Frontex staff are to be given human rights training, we have obtained a fundamental rights officer, there is an agreement with the Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna and a report will have to be filed in the event of misconduct or certain other occurrences. These are all positives.

I would like to point out, however, that we have not managed to get a majority behind the idea of Frontex having an independent observer who could also monitor these new rules and who could, for example, participate in individual missions. The question of whether what we have achieved will actually be applied will thus remain, and I believe that we continue to need independent monitoring by non-State actors.

 
  
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  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, on behalf of the PPE Group.(ES) Madam President, I offer my sincere congratulations to Mr Busuttil, to the Commission and to the Council.

The creation of an area of freedom, security and justice is one of the Union’s greatest achievements, enabling almost 500 million people to move freely within its territory.

The removal of internal borders meant that the peripheral countries were obliged to strengthen their border controls, a function which, as you will recall, falls within the exclusive competence of the countries concerned. The land-locked countries benefit from the free area, but occasionally they forget that this situation is largely due to the effort made by Member States with external boundaries, an effort which is bound to increase in situations where there is a migration crisis.

To an ever-increasing extent, these situations require the intervention of Frontex. However, the agency’s ability to react is limited as it lacks the necessary resources. This lack of resources is due in large part to the lack of real commitment on the part of certain Member States.

Thus, it was necessary and appropriate to strengthen the Frontex Regulation, clearly defining the agency’s role and providing the legal instruments enabling it to be equipped with the necessary means and resources needed to carry out its goals in full accordance with fundamental rights. The provision of economic, material and human resources cannot depend on the good will of only some Member States, since solidarity should be binding and general.

Frontex should also coordinate its activities with Europol and Eurojust to fight organised crime.

Cooperation with the European Asylum Support Office is an essential element in ensuring access to international protection. The creation of a system of border guards is an interesting proposal which may be brought about if it is implemented through the compulsory solidarity clause.

In short, approval of the proposed regulation will make it possible to manage migratory flows better, fight the mafias more effectively and improve the common asylum system.

 
  
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  Sylvie Guillaume, on behalf of the S&D Group. (FR) Madam President, I, too, should like to start by congratulating the rapporteur on the results that he has managed – with no little difficulty – to achieve on a particularly sensitive and thorny issue in the negotiations with the Member States.

Clearly, it is important to mention a number of positive points that can be described as definite progress, even though I admit that my group and I would have appreciated the opportunity to have gone a little further in this reform. We have managed to ensure, then, that the agency will take more care to respect fundamental rights when carrying out its missions. This seems obvious, but it still needed to be established in clear terms. A specialist officer will therefore have access to all information relating to fundamental rights and will perform his or her tasks independently. The agency will have to assist the Member States in situations involving humanitarian emergencies and rescue at sea – and we have seen how important this is in recent months. Operations will be suspended in the event of a fundamental rights violation. Agreements made by Frontex with third countries will have to meet European fundamental rights standards. The principle of non-refoulement, or non-return of migrants, will be upheld in all cases. All of this is along the right lines.

The new regulation is also intended to make Frontex more efficient. To this end, the Member States will have to make a firm commitment to equip the agency with personnel and resources.

The third acknowledged step forward concerns the increased democratic scrutiny of Frontex. The European Parliament will have a very direct involvement in this, even though future amendments to this regulation will, I hope, strengthen MEPs’ right of scrutiny. Three topics, three types of progress that sound obvious but that were, nonetheless, very difficult to obtain.

Two final ideas before I finish. Frontex is, and must continue to be, seen for what it is, namely, a tool to help the EU’s external border surveillance strategy. Frontex is neither a perfect alibi nor a tool for the Member States to use in support of their own migration policies. This is an issue that we will have to work on and which I believe will continue to raise questions with regard to respective responsibilities.

Furthermore, while we are talking about Schengen, we should all remember that European migration policy has many other challenges to address apart from that of Frontex, in the areas, for example, of integration and resettlement, and of access to fair and equitable protection. We hope that the EU as a whole will demonstrate the same political will on these issues, too. In this way, we will be able, I believe, to talk about progress in relation to a Europe of asylum and migration.

 
  
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  Cecilia Wikström, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(SV) Madam President, during this part-session, Parliament is to vote on a revised and strengthened mandate for Frontex. I am proud and very pleased to have been able to be part of the team that has been led in such an excellent manner by Mr Busuttil. I would like to express my thanks for everyone’s constructive cooperation.

As we all know, Frontex is a new authority that has only been operating for six years, and when something is new, there is reason to review operations in order to be able to improve them further for the future. In this report that we now have here, we demonstrate how we can make further improvements to the high-quality work that Frontex does.

I welcome the fact that the authority will now have a clearer mandate and I see it as a positive development that Member States will now contribute by providing both human resources and equipment in order to provide Frontex with the conditions it needs to do a really good job. It is very good that we have succeeded in ensuring respect for human rights in the work of Frontex. This means, among other things, that operations can now be suspended or terminated if violations of human rights are suspected. We are also setting up a body within the authority that will have the specific task of monitoring whether human rights are being respected. I am very pleased to say that it is solely down to Parliament that this has come about. I am very proud of that.

I also welcome the fact that, in a statement, Parliament is sending a very important political signal by choosing to speak of ‘irregular migrants’ instead of ‘illegal migrants’. No person is ever illegal. I look forward to the day when this term is also amended in our treaties. That will take time, but we must always dare to believe that that day will come. In an EU where we have eradicated the internal borders, it is important for our external borders to be respected and controlled in a proper and effective manner. This report will help us to start to see a development along these lines and we can have well-functioning border management without it requiring us to build ‘Fortress Europe’. I would like to thank the rapporteur once again for his excellent work, and everyone else, too. My group will support the report in its entirety.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ROBERTA ANGELILLI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Madam President, the Frontex Agency is an agency that has been untouched by the crisis, given that its budget has increased from just over EUR 6 million in 2005 to more than EUR 80 million today. In other words, Frontex has grown without facing any awkward questions for many years.

Ultimately, the Member States saw something to be gained from this: firstly, the availability of resources for their own internal operations; secondly, the opportunity to turn to Frontex when faced with countries that were seen to be failing to control their borders; and thirdly, the increase in Frontex’s powers and resources, which everyone was calling for. This also enabled the Director of Frontex, only two years ago, to tell MEPs in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, who were worried about human rights being violated, that it was not Frontex’s job to deal with that issue; it was the responsibility of the Member States!

Frontex has ultimately grown against this backdrop of irresponsibility with regard to human rights. I think that, today, it is really to the credit of Parliament and its rapporteur, Mr Busuttil, that the issue of fundamental rights protection was placed so high on the agenda of the negotiations. I say this, of course, because the Treaty of Lisbon has come into force and Frontex is now accountable for its actions to the Court of Justice, which is no small thing; and also because a number of reports show that the principle of non-refoulement has been violated several times during Frontex operations and that access to asylum application procedures, which is an inviolable and international right, has been somewhat mismanaged. We are also awaiting a report from Human Rights Watch, which will show that Frontex is responsible, to some extent, for the unfair detention of migrants.

We therefore had a real problem with regard to respect for human rights, and I believe that the negotiations have enabled us to make serious progress in this area. Nevertheless, this does not mean that my group will be voting in favour of this mandate, because we believe that independence – as mentioned by Ms Lochbihler in particular – independent observation, and reliable, impartial and independent procedures for combating human rights violations, have not been established. This is what will ultimately lead my group to abstain.

Moreover, I should like to take advantage of this debate in order to question the Commission and the Council on the results and the status of Operation Hermes, the most recent Frontex operation: boats, helicopters, 2 000 drowned in the Mediterranean since the NATO intervention in Libya. What did Frontex do during this time? I do not know.

 
  
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  Cornelia Ernst, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, there can scarcely be another institution established by the European Union that is so controversial when it comes to human rights as Frontex is. This agency is associated with shameful images on the high seas where thousands of people have lost their lives, of land borders where people are kept in custody and where deep trenches are now being dug. At heart, Frontex embodies an erring policy towards refugees in Europe, refugees who leave their homelands not only as a result of political persecution, but also for economic reasons – simply to survive – as a result of hunger, civil wars and climate disasters.

The new Frontex mandate does incorporate real and substantial improvements – and for that I am particularly grateful to the rapporteur, Mr Busuttil – such as the obligation to respect human dignity, the right of non-refoulement, non-discrimination, the prohibition of torture, the respect of refugee minors, and the guaranteeing of data protection. Rescues at sea are now finally to be given stability and there is to be a code of conduct for border officials – but it is also true that the mandate does not lay down a principle of refraining from the use of violence. Furthermore, who is to be responsible for actually checking up on proportionality and appropriateness?

Frontex is having its competence clearly expanded as the lead body in border patrols and as the body that produces risk analyses, on the basis of which interventions and the return to their homelands of thousands and thousands more migrants will take place.

Heaven knows how hard Parliament struggled to obtain improvements, but they will make no difference to the fact that a wolf is still a wolf, even if it is dressed in sheep’s clothing. Frontex is not necessary either as a border agency – the national defence institutions serve that purpose – or to repel migration, as migration is not, in fact, repelled, but merely territorially displaced. Frontex is absolutely not suitable to act as custodian of human rights, given that, ultimately, it categorises people as legal or illegal. People cannot be illegal! I do not understand how that is not accepted.

In place of Frontex, what we need is a humanisation of the refugee situation, in Africa, for example, where almost a million refugees live in degrading conditions. That does not interest us, or only does so to a limited extent. We would rather take care of ourselves.

We need an asylum system that demonstrates solidarity, at European level too, of course, and we definitely need a new neighbourhood policy on an equal footing. That, too, still lies ahead.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Madam President, there is indeed a massive problem with illegal immigration into Europe. The effects of this problem are especially felt in England and, in particular, in my constituency of London. England attracts immigration – illegal and legal – because of the possibilities for work and our generous benefits and housing systems.

The UK Independence Party would not be opposed to genuine cooperation between European nation states to counter the problems of illegal immigration – but this proposal is not about genuine cooperation. It seeks to change the legal basis on which Frontex operates and gives it more so-called competences. It will, for example, give Frontex the ability to cooperate with third-party countries on behalf of the EU. This proposal is yet another way of increasing the power and dominion of the European Union over its Member States.

The proposal is another step in introducing the European Union’s common immigration and asylum policy as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. As I will never tire of saying, the Lisbon Treaty was undemocratically imposed on the peoples of Europe without their consent. The Lisbon Treaty was illegal under existing English constitutional law, and everything that stems from it is therefore illegal in England.

There is another problem here, which is the European Convention on Human Rights. British courts are obligated to protect the human rights of foreign nationals in the UK. Once in the UK, they only have to claim that their human rights are likely to be at risk in their own country and the courts will not send them home. As a result of this, we have given refuge to all kinds of criminals.

If I heard him correctly, Mr Busuttil said that all operations would be suspended while a human rights issue was being considered. This is like baling out a boat with a bucket that has an enormous hole in the bottom. The UK Independence Party will vote against this proposal.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Madam President, Frontex is a border control agency that has been prevented from controlling borders. In the explanatory statement from the rapporteur, its function of preventing illegal migration is so understated as to become almost invisible. The need to ‘keep borders open for people who need protection’ and to work hand-in-hand with the European Asylum Office is stated boldly and confidently, placing that need at the centre of its concerns. This means that those who describe themselves as asylum seekers must be welcomed with open arms regardless of the reality of their status. Quite rightly, there is coverage of the need to cut cross-border crime, in which case why have a border-free Schengen area? Illegal migration, however, is mentioned only in hushed terms.

We are told that Frontex must respect fundamental rights. If that means that migrants must not be ill-treated, then that is absolutely right. However, what it means in practice is the principle of so-called non-refoulement, which means that illegal migrants from dangerous countries must not be returned to those countries even if they are not at any particular risk compared with other residents. The logic of that principle is that all of the populations of dangerous countries should be brought to Europe.

Frontex is quite rightly told to rescue illegal migrants in danger. However, once they have been saved, they gain asylum status and cannot be returned to the countries from which they come. The words ‘moral’ and ‘blackmail’ come to mind.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho (PPE).(PT) Madam President, Mr Miller, Commissioner Malmström, I should like to begin by saying that in order for us to have freedom of movement and an area of freedom, security and justice, we need integrated and uniform management of the external borders ensuring a high and uniform level of control and surveillance; that is a vital prerequisite. In order for us to have an integrated system for managing borders, we require the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) and it must play a fundamental role in this respect.

Taking account of the rise in migration pressures, which entail new threats and risks, I believe it is easy to understand why there was a need to strengthen Frontex’s role and to provide it with more resources and tools in order to make it more effective. Moreover, in the context of the new assessment system for Schengen that we are discussing, there is also a need for Frontex to have more competences and, therefore, more responsibilities.

In view of this, I believe it is only fair to congratulate our colleague, Mr Busuttil, on the fantastic work he has carried out in order to reach this agreement. I should like to highlight five points: firstly, the strengthening of provisions on fundamental rights, which several speakers have already mentioned and which is a significant milestone in this agreement; secondly, increased effectiveness, with the possibility of deploying Frontex experts for longer periods of time; thirdly, the creation of border guard teams; fourthly, the processing of personal data, which, besides being required for risk analyses, as Mr Busuttil has reminded us, must be regulated and fulfil specific conditions, and, these conditions must be provided for, specifically in terms of data retention and the depersonalisation of these data; and, finally, the creation of operational resources, or rather equipping Frontex with the means to acquire its own resources without having to depend directly on the Member States.

Madam President, I believe it is fair to say that we hope Frontex’s activities will now show it to be worthy of the faith that the European institutions have placed in it, in terms of human and legislative resources.

 
  
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  Kyriakos Mavronikolas (S&D).(EL) Madam President, it is a fact that improving Frontex was an important step. At the same time, the reform being put in place will help to improve Frontex operations. However, it would have been preferable to have achieved a better and more objective reform and, more to the point, a reform that would provide prospects for a solution to the major problems being encountered today.

Be that as it may, the introduction of special teams of border guards in 2011 and, more importantly, the new position of fundamental rights officer to ensure that the fundamental rights that everyone wishes to claim on entering the European Union are indeed respected, are important arrangements and they have been achieved in this report.

Finally, I trust that, for countries on the receiving end of large numbers of immigrants, such as Cyprus, which currently face demographic and economic problems, certain decisions will be taken, possibly within the framework of solidarity, to support efforts being made by countries such as Cyprus.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE). (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, the agreement that has finally been reached after months of wrangling will undoubtedly improve Frontex’s operations.

We believe that strengthening the agency’s capabilities is, above all, a way of strengthening fundamental rights. On this issue, as on the other very serious issues that are rocking the European Union right now, it is time to give expression to European responsibility and to solidarity among the States. For too long, Frontex has been too vague about the information, conditions and criteria applied to people rescued at sea, and therefore, in fact, about the fate awaiting them.

Of course, the States will be in charge from now on. This is one of the major breakthroughs of the regulation. However, the fact remains that thousands of people died at sea this summer in the Mediterranean, while battles – terribly hypocritical ones in many cases – were being fought between the States with regard to territorial waters.

For my part, following my visit to the island of Lampedusa and my meeting with the border officials manning that area and the people at the reception centre, this memory will be forever etched in my mind. It is time to address this situation at the borders of the EU, which affects the Member States of our Union.

 
  
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  Franziska Keller (Verts/ALE). – Madam President, much has been said about improvements in the human rights field, and it is true that there have been a number of improvements, such as the human rights officer, the consultative forum, the termination of operations in cases of human rights violations, more reports to the EP, and a few others.

Then again, the human rights officer will not be independent and the termination of operations will only happen in cases of severe human rights violations. Can somebody tell me where one draws the line between acceptable and unacceptable human rights violations? A few more reports to the European Parliament – which will not, by the way, be made public – will not give us greater control of Frontex.

Additionally, there are also agreements and cooperation with third countries, with the possibility for Frontex to process data. All those things open new windows of opportunity for combating human rights violations. Much will depend on how things are implemented and on how the human rights officer will be employed. Will it be somebody with lots of knowledge and experience in the field and somebody with a strong will, or somebody who does not want to harm his employer? What rights will she/he have? What rights will the consultative forum have and what rights to information? How detailed will the Commission’s reports on monitoring the fate of returnees be?

Much depends on how all this is done and on the consequences of all this reporting, etc., but you can be sure that we will continue to look very closely at how Frontex operates and at what the future developments will be. This new mandate solves nothing, and I would stress that I am deeply disappointed by the Council’s complete lack of commitment to human rights, which we witnessed during the negotiations. I really hope that there will be an improvement soon, and that these new small steps towards more human rights protection will be properly and fully implemented.

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, the Arab Spring has once again highlighted the ineffectiveness and the weaknesses of current immigration arrangements across the EU.

Our response needs to be two-pronged. Firstly, we need to radically reform the Schengen Agreement, not to prevent EU citizens from having free movement across the bloc – something that has generally proven very successful – but so that national governments are able to manage major specific migratory pressures on their borders, if and when necessary.

However, we must also realise that, even if we do reform the Schengen Agreement, the EU’s borders will still not become hermetically sealed. That is why we must also tackle the issue at its source, which means giving Frontex the tools and resources that it needs to intercept migrants as they attempt to cross into the EU, and to deal with them appropriately. Political pressure should also be put on some of the countries which are particularly responsible – or should I say irresponsible – with regard to migratory flows to the EU.

Getting this right is in all our interests. My country, the UK, has, of course, not fully signed up to the Schengen Agreement yet. Many migrants who enter the EU will ultimately want to enter the United Kingdom, placing considerable pressures on humanitarian and local public services there and posing a threat to hauliers who pass through.

This is an issue that affects all of us, and we should all make an effort to tackle it, but we should do it jointly in a spirit of mutual cooperation, rather than effecting a spirit of confrontation, which we have unfortunately seen develop between Member States, and between Member States and the Commission, in recent months. That must be the way forward: reform, but also full understanding of the pressures which exist presently on our Member States.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL).(FR) Madam President, Frontex is a symbol: it symbolises the way in which the European Union wants its efforts to manage and control its borders to be perceived.

The European Parliament has tried, once again, to exert pressure so that the fundamental rights of people who try to reach the European Union, for economic or humanitarian reasons, are better taken into account. A few of our amendments, particularly those concerning rescue at sea, have been included, for which I am grateful to our rapporteur.

However, we are far from achieving the kinds of things we preach to the world. I shall cite just one example: rescue at sea. According to NGOs, since the start of the year, more than 2 000 migrants have been lost at sea. This summer, NATO ships finally reacted and rescued those who had been shipwrecked, but they searched in vain for a Member State to take them in. They returned them, once again, to Tunisia, the country in which the most effort has been made to support those who have fled the war in Libya, a war that was, nonetheless, backed by the European Union.

We do not want this Europe, this ‘fortress Europe’ that lectures others about human rights and democracy, but which is incapable of reaching out to a few thousand refugees. Border control and expulsion to third countries without any real guarantee of respect for the most fundamental rights remain the key words. Worse still, explicit permission is being given for joint returns via charter aircraft. The issue of data protection has not been resolved.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently conducting an inquiry into these deaths in the Mediterranean, and the European Union will have to account for its failings. There are still no cast-iron guarantees where human rights are concerned. Therefore, we shall not be voting for the mandate in its current state.

 
  
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  Sampo Terho (EFD). (FI) Madam President, I support the proposals made to expand the mandate and competence of the border management agency. Support for border management is one of the EU’s key tasks, in which failure is simply not an option.

No one country is to blame for its own geographical position or the migratory pressure that it is under as a result. That is why it is only right to share this burden, and we must cooperate in the area of border control and assist one another, and, furthermore, do so in difficult times, and especially then. For example, it is estimated that there are more than a million illegal immigrants in Greece, which only aggravates the country’s difficult economic situation.

More effective border management might sound harsh, but we have to remember that effective controls at external borders are vital for freedom of movement within the EU, and are one of the core issues of the entire European project. If the Union’s external borders leak, the pressure grows for Member States to increase the number of internal border checks that they conduct, and we cannot then blame national governments for any measures that they might take.

In short, borders are not controlled to limit freedom, but to safeguard it.

 
  
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  Barry Madlener (NI).(NL) Madam President, Commissioner Malmström is failing and leaving the external borders of the European Union wide open. I would therefore ask the Commissioner: when will you finally do what you have to do? How will you make a start in doing so? I call on you to ensure that the external borders of the EU are properly guarded. The citizens wonder where Frontex is, given that tens of thousands of North African fortune-seekers have entered the EU. They pass through these external borders without difficulty and then enter the asylum process or disappear into illegality.

I would also ask the Commissioner: when will you tackle the corrupt State of Bulgaria? At the Bulgarian border, anyone can buy a one-way ticket to the EU without documents. Yes, Commissioner Malmström, I did say ‘buy’. The Dutch ambassador in Bulgaria has revealed that just a EUR 500 payment to corrupt customs officials will get you into the EU. Clearly, border controls are simply pointless if they can be circumvented by means of corruption. What is the Commissioner’s position on this? What is she going to do about it?

 
  
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  Salvatore Iacolino (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that this result regarding Frontex, an agency that very much expresses the solidarity and the sense of responsibility of the European people, represents, more than any other, a true victory, a victory for legal civilisation.

We needed a stronger Frontex, Ms Malmström; we also need a new operational plan for Lampedusa and Pantelleria, which remain isolated while the inalienable rights of legal immigrants, which must be safeguarded, continue to be safeguarded and guaranteed.

At the same time, there is a new form of Schengen governance that provides for integrated border management. This must take due account of the fact that citizens’ safety also depends on their having a good quality of life, which cannot always be guaranteed, and is still not guaranteed in some cases.

Lampedusa and Pantelleria have so far received around 63 000 people from North Africa; cooperation with third countries is only right and it must be strengthened. I hope that the bilateral agreements, particularly the one with Libya, on which Ms Malmström has been doing some valuable work, but the rest of the agreements too, can finally be concluded: only in this way will they be able to tackle illegal migration as effectively as possible, and safeguard legal migration instead.

Frontex’s efforts will have to be examined and assessed. More resources are needed, as is certification of the quality of the results achieved and a new operational plan. A revitalised Frontex, more human, practical and technical resources, and a new operational plan, are what we are calling for, just as we are calling for the fulfilment of the fundamental objective contained in paragraph 1 of this important text, which says that Europe must show necessary solidarity with countries facing an excessive or disproportionate flood of migrants, and not just pretend to be supportive as it has done until now, when it has sometimes forgotten.

On that note, I hope that the Presidency and the Commission can work actively with the European Parliament, and I thank Mr Busuttil for his important work on this dossier.

 
  
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  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Madam President, I would also like to acknowledge the work of our rapporteur, Mr Busuttil, and the proposal to amend the regulation establishing the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex). This regulation has been supported by the work of the Commission and the Polish Presidency right at a time when we are focused on an agency that is based in Warsaw itself, and which is vital for understanding the significance of an area of freedom, security and justice for a globally relevant Europe, now that we are experiencing so many events – particularly in the Mediterranean region – that highlight the importance not of strengthening internal borders but of jointly defending and managing our external border. This can be done by strengthening the operational dimension of Frontex, its material and human resources, and the mandate that the Member States should contribute by fulfilling the solidarity clause; above all, however, we must strengthen its humanitarian dimension, in order to know who is responsible for off-shore operations, and underline the importance of saving lives and of responsibility in the area of disembarkation and first aid given to those rescued.

This therefore sends out a positive message of commitment to the humanitarian dimension of Frontex and to the protection of vulnerable people and unaccompanied minors, and of respect for the rules of international humanitarian law, particularly the Geneva Convention and the principle of non-refoulement.

We therefore have an opportunity to highlight the external dimension of the European Union, its humanitarian nature, as well as its internal dimension, the mandate for solidarity, which is legally binding, positive law for all Member States based on Article 70 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Sonia Alfano (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the amendment of the Frontex Regulation, on which we are voting today, is designed to strengthen the European Agency, endowing it with greater operational capabilities and strengthening the enforcement of the fundamental rights of refugees and asylum seekers but, above all, the ban on refoulement.

The creation of a fundamental rights officer role within the Frontex Management Board and the requirement for Member States to show solidarity with each other are steps in that direction. The reform of Frontex must enable us to tackle the real migration-related emergencies in Europe. Only today, the Financial Times reports that approximately 85% of the 104 000 migrants who entered the EU illegally in 2010 arrived via Greece, and not via Italy or Malta, and unfortunately the same will be true in 2012.

Only if Frontex fully respects migrants’ human rights and helps to prevent the huge number of deaths in the Mediterranean, which has now become a burial ground in which the lives and hopes of people fleeing poverty, oppression and desperation are extinguished, will we be able to say that we are on the right track. This must be Frontex’s goal, and the European Parliament will have to monitor the progress made in this regard.

 
  
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  Ulrike Lunacek (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, in the past, we have seen quite horrible images of refugees who had lost their lives gruesomely in the Mediterranean. The images showed women, children and young men, who had been trying to get over here to us in order to live a better life, but, above all, also seeking protection against violations of their human rights in their homelands.

The proposal on the table is for a better mandate for Frontex than the existing one. Unfortunately, however, it is half-hearted, it has gaps and it is not what we in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance had envisaged, namely, a mandate that strongly protects refugees and human rights. There is, for example, the question of responsibility, which is to say who is responsible, ultimately? Is it the Member State, or is it Frontex? That has not been clarified precisely. What we fear is that, in future, we will continue to hear each party saying ‘no, no, it is not us, it’s the others’. This passing of the buck will, I fear, continue.

What shape will cooperation with third countries take, specifically? What is the effect of us managing to get through a requirement for the legal situation in such States to be in accordance with EU law? There will clearly be no cooperation with dictators, but the detailed form of this requirement is likewise still unclear.

Finally, we would also have liked there to be much stronger democratic control. For the European Parliament, in particular, there is still a lot to be desired in this area. I hope, however, that this mandate will nonetheless help to protect some people from a gruesome death in the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Madam President, the external borders of the Union are the joint responsibility of the Member States. At the same time, each Member State is responsible for ensuring compliance with its obligations under international agreements. This report makes reference to the limited room to act that this EU agency has had since it was founded, and it proposes necessary changes that aim to facilitate the effective work of the agency as a tool to combat cross-border crime effectively.

Today, we are debating the revision of the framework for Frontex. Is this an opportune moment to go into the material deficiencies, such as the accusations of human rights infringements? The rapporteur has already presented amendments that aim to strengthen the provisions in relation to human rights and the European Parliament’s rights of democratic control. However, it must also be time to clear up the details of the substantive accountability of the agency.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Madam President, we constantly refer to the need for real solidarity between the Member States, in terms of our policies on immigration and in combating illegal immigration and in protecting human rights. We refer to security on the external borders, which is a prerequisite to the Schengen acquis, and, every time, we refer again and again to the concept of solidarity. The primary body for fostering this solidarity is Frontex, which is the subject of today’s debate.

As well as congratulating our rapporteur, I should like to thank the Commission and the Council for the fact that, thanks to the negotiations which preceded this report, we have achieved a constructive agreement. These decisions prove that we are up to the job, that we are responding to needs, and that we are strengthening Frontex, all of which is sorely needed.

Allow me to make two additional comments in connection with the future of Frontex and the need to promote it. The first concerns technical agreements with third countries. Commissioner, we have repeatedly debated, including here in plenary, the issue of the technical agreement with Turkey, which has dug its heels in and has stopped moving forward on non-technical issues. What will become of these agreements and what will happen now, following the changes in the Arab world and in North Africa?

My second comment concerns the local branches which Frontex may decide to operate. The first branch has been set up in Piraeus. Based on reports we have received in Greece, it would appear that the presence of Frontex in Piraeus is vital in monitoring operations and supervising the situation there and, as such, it is important that it should remain following the forthcoming evaluation. May I remind you that, to date, the branch in Piraeus has operated on the basis of a pilot plan. Will the branch stay, if the evaluation considers it worthwhile? We also need to consider if other branches are needed in other countries.

 
  
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  Carmen Romero López (S&D).(ES) Madam President, events in North Africa have been unfolding much faster than our debates and the solutions we have put forward. The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) has therefore been unable to respond to this humanitarian crisis, despite the fact that this situation has been going on for many months, and is not yet over.

It is clear that good intentions lie behind efforts to strengthen the operational and humanitarian dimensions and to establish a greater level of communitisation for this instrument. However, unfortunately, it is not enough for all the events we are currently witnessing. In this debate, I am not going to focus on what is happening and what we are seeing every day on the television.

This tragedy has an answer; it needs a stronger response from the EU, and there cannot be an effective system until those countries have established democracy and we have created a relationship of cooperation with those third countries.

Establishing trust is far more effective than pushing ahead with ‘Fortress Europe’, but it is obviously going to take some time. In the meanwhile, during that time, we have to find more effective solutions that meet the standards of our own values.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, first of all, I should like to thank our colleague, Mr Busuttil, for the outstanding work he has done. His deliberations have enriched the initial proposal, and we must congratulate him on that.

His report creates the blueprint for an agency with increased resources that are more appropriate to the tasks it is set. Recent events have shown us the need for closer cooperation between the European Union, the Member States and a strong agency that provides support. Frontex is finally being granted the resources to carry out its missions. By being able to purchase or lease its own equipment and by benefiting from the services of its own border guards, it will become more independent and very effective. It is also being entrusted with new tasks, such as organising voluntary returns and processing personal data, so that we can combat cross-border crime while protecting fundamental rights.

This extension of Frontex’s powers gives us the means to consider and deal with migration issues from a global perspective, without limiting ourselves to a mechanical approach to border management. I am in favour of the possibility of exchanging personal data with other European agencies, notably Europol.

Lastly, the human dimension is very much a part of this report. Strong recognition of human rights is guaranteed by the proposal to set up a consultative forum within the agency. I can only welcome this comprehensive proposal, which will enable us to take a step forward towards the sound and responsible management of our external borders, at a time of particularly strong and sustained migratory pressure.

 
  
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  Birgit Sippel (S&D).(DE) Madam President, the new mandate for Frontex is a contribution to bringing about the situation whereby, whilst our borders are given the necessary protection, human rights are observed and those seeking protection actually receive it. There are many areas where I would have liked to have seen something better, for example, when it comes to independent observers. Yet whatever you may think of this new mandate, the situation will remain a patchwork.

In all the criticism of Frontex – including the justified criticism – one point is often overlooked, and that is the participation and responsibility of the Member States in their collaboration with the agency. Unfortunately, they are not something that we can reform! It would be an important further step though, if we could finally, for example, put in place a uniform and improved European asylum system.

The new Frontex mandate may be a step in the right direction, but critical follow-up continues to be absolutely necessary. The discussion about protecting our borders and about the rights of refugees will not be concluded simply as a result of this new mandate.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE). – Madam President, the strengthening of Frontex is very welcome in ensuring human treatment for the migrants coming to our external borders and, at the same time, in helping us fight irregular migration. I welcome, in particular, the improvements on fundamental rights, especially for unaccompanied minors, and better protection of data.

On joint European border guard teams, it is very clear that we are not creating a European police force. Subsidiarity stands and, Madam Commissioner, I can never underline enough how important it will be to have a very clear command and control structure.

On the special focus on Member States under special and disproportionate pressure, it is very important to clarify what this means if we really want to employ European solidarity. I hope, Madam Commissioner, that you will, in the implementing rules, give a clear definition that will help us avoid confrontation and conflicts. Cofinancing is to be preferred to financing for joint operations as it remains the primary responsibility of Member States to deal with external borders. Finally, I would like to say that Frontex has an important, supportive, operational and technical role to play, but it is a step towards the common asylum policy which we need to continue to work for in 2012.

 
  
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  Tanja Fajon (S&D). (SL) Madam President, European governments have thus far not shown enough solidarity with the Mediterranean countries in attempting to resolve the refugee crisis.

Hundreds, thousands of people have drowned over the past few months while trying to reach the shores of Europe. They were fleeing war and misery and lost their lives because of European indifference.

For a long time, Europe has been divided over the multiple waves of African refugees. It is therefore imperative that we take steps to help these disillusioned, sick and starving fugitives as they reach their destination.

It is imperative that we strengthen the functioning and effectiveness of Frontex. Otherwise, we shall witness new tragedies where refugees at sea are abandoned to their own devices.

I hope that the common European border patrols will make a tangible difference. All Member States must take responsibility and fulfil their promises regarding financial and technical support.

I salute the appointment of a special ombudsman who will ensure respect for civil rights. These immigrants are the victims of war, poverty and human evil.

Refugees are a challenge for the European Union as a whole. We all have a moral duty to provide assistance in securing a safe haven for legitimate asylum seekers when an unexpected wave of immigrants exceeds the capacity of the countries at the external borders of the Union.

Europe must not become a byword for indifference.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  William (The Earl of) Dartmouth (EFD). – Madam President, the speaker referred to refugees several times in her speech. In the opinion of the speaker, are any of these refugees economic refugees?

 
  
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  Tanja Fajon (S&D). (SL) Thank you for your question, Mr Dartmouth.

This is a refugee crisis in every sense of the expression. These people are forced to flee to Europe because of war, poverty and misery. This is often the reason for their seeking refuge in Europe and I feel that our countries must help in tangible ways.

These are war refugees, people fleeing poverty and people who are the actual victims of human evil.

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE).(HU) Madam President, in line with the proposal of the European Commission, the report of my colleague, Mr Busuttil, points in the direction of enhancing the operation of Frontex. I especially welcome the intention to reinforce the provisions on fundamental human rights, because no European measure, not even the strengthening of our external borders, may disregard this aspect. I also agree with my colleague that the agency should pay special attention to Member States facing specific and disproportionate pressures. This is essential not only because recent events have revealed more strikingly than ever the difficulties Member States are facing in such situations, but also because this is what the idea of European solidarity calls for. This is what the success of the plan to build a common area of freedom, security and justice calls for.

I should like to note at this point that the abolition of internal borders, and the protection of our common external borders, is for the good of European citizens as a whole. That is why I hope that the citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will be able to enjoy the benefits of the Schengen area as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D).(RO) Madam President, recent events have shown us that we urgently need a European approach to managing the Schengen borders. From this perspective, reforming Frontex is of fundamental importance and must be supported. One of the areas where Frontex experienced the most problems relates to the protection of fundamental rights and the guarantees ensuring the safety and protection of emigrants. I believe that the compromise text will produce significant improvements in this area. What matters most is that these new rules are applied properly. This is why Frontex’s actions need to be transparent to the European Parliament.

I also think it is important that Frontex will be tasked with carrying out risk analyses at external borders. At a practical level, these risk analyses will enable us to obtain accurate, objective data about the real problems prevalent in the Schengen area. This will help us avoid making subjective, strictly political assessments as is happening at the moment in the case of Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen area.

 
  
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  Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D).(EL) Madam President, in the six years since it was founded, Frontex has faced numerous challenges due to waves of illegal immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia arriving in the Southern European countries, which are under disproportionate pressure and receive a disproportionate number of asylum applications and need real help. Today, however, Frontex needs a renewed mandate, more resources and funds and a better system for guarding the borders throughout the European Union, especially in Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Italy, with the use of border guards in accordance with the solidarity clause.

In this new regulation, we support Frontex, so that it can guard the external borders of the European Union better, can oversee working agreements between the European Union and third countries, and can help with the voluntary repatriation of illegal immigrants, with due respect for human rights. However, in addition to strengthening Frontex, the European Union should, on the one hand, put pressure on Turkey to stop channelling illegal immigrants via Greece and via my occupied country, Cyprus, and, on the other, give real support to the countries of Southern Europe.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE).(PL) Madam President, Mr Miller, Commissioner, I share the opinion of the rapporteur and the European Commission calling for Frontex’s operations to be based on the principle of solidarity, albeit a compulsory solidarity. Amongst other things, I am thinking here of the setting up of European border guard teams and the provision of technical resources by different Member States. It is also imperative for Frontex to work together with Europol, Eurojust and other agencies and to step up operations in countries whose asylum systems are not working correctly.

In summarising the agency’s work to date and in planning its operation in the future, we should bear in mind its responsibility to protect the Union’s external borders, but also its duty to uphold fundamental rights. Every effort should be made to enable the agency to carry out its work properly.

 
  
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  Carlo Fidanza (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank Mr Busuttil for the excellent work he has done in this report. Finally, after lengthy negotiations, the Council has reached a common position on the strengthening of Frontex, which is an ultimately positive political signal after a period of national egotism and operational uncertainties that lasted too long.

The creation of a pool of European border guards coordinated by the agency, a better definition of the rules of engagement for joint operations, the rescue of immigrants at sea and the strengthening of Frontex’s relationships with the other agencies are some of the most important measures envisaged by this agreement, but much still remains to be done: first and foremost, we must ensure that the European Union rather than individual coastal countries is now responsible for signing bilateral agreements with countries of origin, in order to carry out joint coastal patrols and curb migratory flows, right from the port of departure.

We must then work with those countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to set up offices on the ground that will actually assess whether or not migrants have the right to claim asylum and hence to cross our borders. Much still remains to be done, but we are on the right track.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková-Beňová (S&D). (SK) Madam President, the Schengen area of free movement and the removal of internal borders has facilitated the free movement of citizens in an unprecedented way. At the same time, however, it also creates pressure for the better protection of our external borders.

It should be taken as read that the Union welcomes legal migrants and that it will also protect people fleeing oppression. At the same time, however, it is equally important to prevent the penetration of crime into our territory. The Frontex Agency has a very important role in this area. Despite some partial success, it has failed to achieve the desired effectiveness over the five years since it was set up. In the area of fundamental rights, the obligation to comply with fundamental rights under the Charter, and the obligation to comply with international agreements, including the Geneva Convention and commitments relating to the availability of international protection, have been enforced. Although posts and personnel for the area of fundamental rights and data protection have appeared in the institutional architecture of Frontex, there is nevertheless a whole range of deficiencies that we need to eliminate as quickly as possible.

 
  
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  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D). – Madam President, one merit of the report is that it underlines the need for solidarity with the frontier countries of the EU. Better management is provided by strengthening the external borders of the EU through solidarity and trust, rather than by carving into those borders by denying access to Schengen.

The main handicap of this instrument seems to be its total dependence on the means provided by the Member States when needed, making it a prisoner to their scarcity, political calculus or simply goodwill. Rather, to be fully operational, Frontex would need a minimal permanent capacity to intervene, like a rapid reaction force supplied by the Member States through rotation.

Finally, with regard to involving Frontex in the processing of personal data, while linking Frontex up with other relevant institutions is inevitable, its role should be limited, strictly regulated and properly monitored.

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE).(DE) Madam President, Mr Miller, Commissioner, with this new Frontex Regulation and Mr Busuttil’s excellent report, we are bringing about a situation whereby the external borders can, in future, be even better monitored than hitherto. At the same time, this will also mean that freedom of movement – borderless travel within the European Union – will continue to be secured while also making it possible to more effectively combat international organised crime such as human trafficking or drugs-based crime.

For me, there are three particularly significant factors. First of all, in future, we must have European border protection teams available – with top-quality experts and state-of-the-art technology instantly available. Secondly, we must at long last also call the Member States to account for failing to deliver what they had promised. In other words, staff and equipment that the Member States made assurances they would provide must actually be made available. Thirdly, allowance must be made for the possibility of carrying out risk analyses and providing the Member States with the data for effective border surveillance.

All in all, this is a very, very positive instrument for greater security within the European Union.

 
  
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  Lena Ek (ALDE).(SV) Madam President, Frontex is a decision, a force and a phenomenon that makes very many people uneasy for several different reasons. This is the case, firstly, when it comes to solidarity with people outside Europe who want to seek a better future for themselves; secondly, with regard to respect for human rights, the Red Cross Conventions and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; and, above all, there is confusion surrounding the traditional definition of refugee. Whenever we discuss Frontex, I think that we all have a huge responsibility to preserve the content of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the definition of refugee and the rights of refugees. The third area that causes concern is, of course, openness and transparency and respect for privacy.

Lastly, I would like to stress how important it is for us to initiate talks with the North African transitional states in order to reach agreement with them as to how we should deal with these issues in the new situation that has arisen with the pro-democracy movements in North Africa.

 
  
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  Malika Benarab-Attou (Verts/ALE). (FR) Madam President, the peoples of the southern Mediterranean expect a strong gesture of solidarity and support from us amid the upheaval and the challenges they face. These are peoples whom we colonised in the recent past, which means that we have an added responsibility.

In supporting their democratic transition, we must devise, here in Europe, a true policy of hospitality that is consistent with our value of fraternity. Devising a policy of hospitality means, first of all, reviewing the reception conditions at our borders and ensuring that the fundamental rights of those who cross them are respected. It also means finding a solution for the thousands of young people who are dying in the Mediterranean, before our very eyes. This is unacceptable.

This report, despite including new clauses on respect for human rights and fundamental rights in Frontex’s mandate, is not aimed at a new policy of hospitality. Despite the proposed changes, Frontex’s mandate is still confined to a repressive ‘fortress Europe’ attitude. We must continue our efforts to guarantee more thorough assessments of Frontex operations, with the help of an independent monitoring body, so as to ensure respect for democracy and fundamental rights set out in our report.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, has been subjected to frequent criticism since 2005 due to the less than clear mandate for its operations on the territory of Member States and its lack of resources for providing assistance to Member States in the event of exceptional situations on the external borders of the Union. It is therefore in our common interest to strengthen the resources of Frontex in the future so that it can be ready to respond effectively in situations where the border protection forces of individual Member States cannot handle an emergency situation on our common borders. In addition to staffing and technical reinforcements of the rapid intervention teams, we must also, in the interests of fighting cross-border crime, improve cooperation between the border authorities of the Member States and Frontex, as well as cooperation with the Europol and Eurojust agencies. I firmly believe that only well-coordinated cooperation between Member State border services and the relevant European institutions can contribute to strengthening our common border.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Madam President, along the southern maritime borders of our Union lies the eastern route across the Balkans, where illegal immigration takes place. This year, in my home country of Austria, we have already arrested more than 12 000 illegal immigrants, which is 23% more than last year. They are thus coming via the classical Balkan route, where there is clearly an open external border that seems to bear more resemblance to a Swiss cheese than to a real border.

The activities of Frontex and Europol are failing as a result of the lack of willingness to coordinate on the part of the Member States. They are failing as a result of the lack of deployment plans and of technical operating resources. The negative consequences have to be borne, above all, by the central European countries of destination, including my home country of Austria.

What do the citizens expect, then? They expect Europe to provide effective protection, to protect its external borders effectively. What is needed here is quick and targeted action. I have misgivings, however, about whether this report will actually bring about any progress on efficiency.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I would like to thank all the speakers in this very fruitful debate. The amendment of the legal framework of Frontex has been a priority for us, and the developments in the Mediterranean have, of course, put even greater emphasis on this work. Frontex is only one player in the whole Mediterranean situation. This requires a whole range of different instruments. There is the mobility partnership that we are currently developing with our neighbours in northern Africa, starting with Tunisia and Egypt, and hopefully continuing with the new regime in Libya soon. There is also our global approach to migration, and we are, of course, putting into place the foundations of the common asylum system. I am grateful for the support of Parliament on all these issues and I am sure we will come back to them very soon.

But turning to the future of Frontex, the Commission will further assess the work of the agency and launch a study to determine if it is feasible to create a European system of border guards. The Commission will be making a declaration on this for inclusion in the record, and we will, of course, also be closely monitoring how Frontex is working under the new premises and regulation.

I am confident that a first-reading agreement between the colegislators will enable the agency to better fulfil its coordinating role at the external borders of the EU in the coming years. It will strengthen its effectiveness and operability, and it will also strengthen the fundamental rights aspects of the work. I am thankful for the European Parliament’s support in this respect.

There are many expectations of Frontex. It cannot deliver on all these issues, but with the decision that will be taken in the vote here today or tomorrow, we will give it more resources, more guidelines, more commitment and better legitimacy. I am sure it will work much better with all these things.

I would like to thank you all for your involvement in this and particularly the rapporteur, Mr Busuttil.

 
  
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  Jerzy Miller, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Madam President, honourable Members, I have listened carefully, with interest and immense gratitude, to everyone who has spoken in this discussion. My impression is that we are all saying that a secure external border is a requirement for the permanent removal of internal borders. This is why we attach such importance to this discussion about an agency which, together with the Member States, guarantees the security of the European Union’s external border.

I would like to express my sincere thanks in particular to the rapporteur. Mr Busuttil has shown that he is able, in what is a very difficult matter – and today’s discussion has shown again how difficult it is – to find a sensible compromise, a compromise which, in such an important matter for Europe, can lead to a settlement. It is not, of course, the best settlement for everyone, but it can gain the support of most MEPs. I am very sincerely grateful, too, for the work of the Hungarian Presidency and for their efforts on behalf of the Council.

The legislation you have prepared lays an even stronger obligation on the Member States to work together. This does not just mean working with the agency, but also with each other, in the name of European solidarity in terms of responsibility for the common external border. Furthermore, this applies not just to formal aspects, because working together also means the Member States making available their human resources, their equipment, their experience, and their ability in resolving the difficult situation at the external border.

The legislation you have prepared guarantees that Frontex will be more effective. We would not have been talking about the agency with such perseverance today if it were not for the real threat to maintenance of the security of the external border. In relation to this, the effectiveness we are talking about is not just a slogan; it is the profound expectation of European society.

Finally, in giving Frontex the duty of, as well as the tools necessary for, carrying out risk analysis, you are saying that it is necessary to prepare at the prevention stage and not wait until there is a real threat to the security of the external border.

I would like to express my very sincere thanks to the rapporteur, in particular, and to everyone who has contributed to achieving this judicious compromise.

 
  
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  Simon Busuttil, rapporteur. (MT) First of all, I would like to thank all those who took part in this debate for their interventions. I think, Madam President, that if there is a lesson to be learnt from the events that took place this year – especially as regards the Schengen Area – it is what Minister Miller just said; namely, that in order to guarantee freedom of movement within the European Union for our citizens, we must realise that we have to work together to strengthen our external borders. This means that the freedom to move within the Schengen Area depends on strong external borders.

This is where Frontex comes in. Frontex helps us cooperate towards strong external borders. This is why we wanted to change our legislation; to make Frontex even more effective than it already is. At the end of the day, let us not forget that this is a chain, and – as the saying goes – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If there is a weak link, the whole chain will break. In the changes we made to Frontex, we kept one thing in mind: we must be strict in the protection of our external borders but, at the same time, we must be generous and show solidarity with those seeking help, especially people who are experiencing the realities of emigration.

To conclude, Madam President, I would like to say that it was a huge privilege for me to work together with the shadow rapporteurs, the Commission and the Presidency – especially the Hungarian Presidency – on the subject of Frontex.

I hope that our contribution will lead to a more effective agency, and I also hope that we will be given strong support in the vote to be taken later today. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Barry Madlener (NI). (NL) Madam President, I would like to make a point of order. Commissioner Malmström has taken numerous questions from a number of Members, including the question from me about what she is going to do about corruption at our borders, for example, in Bulgaria. I have not heard a single answer to these questions from her. She brushes them off quite effortlessly. Do you not think that the Commissioner should answer somewhat more extensively the questions posed by the Members of this House?

 
  
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  President. – The Commissioner has provided some answers. I do not know whether you wish to take the floor, but there is an item on corruption tomorrow. There will be a debate, a comprehensive debate, tomorrow afternoon, so it may be better to expand on this issue, which is obviously very important and a central concern of both Parliament and the Commission, then.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 11.30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD), in writing. – The creation of a Frontex agency is effectively putting the determination of who may or may not enter Europe into the hands of the EU. Many countries in the EU have been inundated with immigrants, putting pressure on the economy and welfare systems and overcrowding cities and services. Once immigrants are granted access to Europe, they are able to travel between Member States. Many seek to move on to the UK, which already battles a ballooning population under the strain of recent immigration. At a time of fiscal crisis when austerity measures are essential, it is irrational to flood societies. What is more, the prerogative of who is granted asylum should be the privilege of the domestic government and not be determined by an outside agency. Whilst immigration for asylum seekers is something I support, I do not trust the European Union to be at the helm of decision making. In today’s global society, immigration may be used as a tactic by other countries. Mass immigration can distort social identity and threaten integration. It is a matter that should be handled with care and caution by leaders of nations who recognise and are sensitive to domestic peculiarities.

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE), in writing.(HU) EU decision makers are guided by the aim of making the European Union more citizen-friendly. One of the key elements in this is to make the citizens of Europe feel safe, and to ensure that they are able to safely make use of the most popular of our EU acquis, the Schengen system. The Schengen system, however, cannot function properly without effective protection of our external borders. European citizens therefore have an increasing need for an effective and well-organised EU institution capable of rapid response and which is invested with appropriate powers and capacities. That is why Frontex must be strengthened by legal means as well, so that it can indeed take effective action in the fight against human trafficking, criminal organisations and the drug trade. Respect for human rights, including those of refugees, must, of course, be an important consideration in Frontex operations. My fellow Member, Mr Busuttil, did an outstanding job with the consultations, both within Parliament and with the Commission and the Council, and for that he deserves our unmitigated praise. Furthermore, we must point out that it was the Hungarian Presidency whose efforts resulted in the fact that we reached an agreement on the Frontex proposal over the past six months. We hope that through our strenuous work, we managed to create an appropriate background for the work undertaken by Frontex.

 
  
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  Ville Itälä (PPE), in writing. (FI) According to this report, Member States are under an obligation to make their own equipment available for Frontex operations if Frontex so requests. I hope that this will correct one major problem: the Member States have not often put equipment at the disposal of the agency to any adequate degree.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The new regulation on Frontex marks the most important reform to the legislation which gave rise to this agency in 2004, and a step forward for the future of the EU’s external borders. The EU’s external borders cannot be reinforced at Member State level. Through Frontex, all Member States will be able to take part in external border operations and actively promote the principle of distributing immigration and asylum assignments.

We must not lose sight of how important it is to show solidarity with those Member States which are subject to migratory pressures. Setting up the European border guard teams is another important step. This new external border service will deploy border guards appointed by Member States for joint operations. I hope that Frontex’s actions will have a higher profile in future. I should emphasise the importance of increasing Frontex’s 2012 budget, given the new tasks arising from this new regulation.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended until 11.35)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT
Vice-President

 
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