Revision of the Frontex regulation

In “Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs - LIBE”

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In its resolution of 2 April 2014 on the mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme, the Parliament called for the role of Frontex to be reinforced in order to increase its capacity to respond more effectively to changing migration flows. In the same resolution, the EP had stressed that the Schengen external borders should in the future be guarded with the support of European border guards.

Along the same line, at its meeting on 16 October 2015, the European Council expressed its intention to work ‘towards the gradual establishment of an integrated management system for external borders’.

Echoing the EP's and the European Council's requests, on 15 December 2015, the Juncker-Commission put forward a proposal for a Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), which was to be put into action at the sections of the EU external borders with the highest pressure. The proposed regulation, which repeals the Frontex Regulation, builds on the existing border management policy.

At its meeting of 16-18 February 2016, the European Council called on the Council and the EP to reach a political agreement on the current proposal by July 2016.

On 30 May 2016, the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee adopted its report, as well as a mandate to open inter-institutional negotiations. The aim of the report was to amend the rules so as to:

  • enhance the efficiency in dealing with the challenges faced by the EU at its borders, with regard to both migration and internal security and with the aim of preserving free movement within the Schengen area, and
  • to increase transparency and accountability to the European Parliament, while respecting the sovereignty of EU member states.

The EP was also seeking to:

  • further expand the role of the agency in return, by allowing it to assist member states with return operations (i.e. returning illegally-staying non-EU nationals to their country of origin), both operationally and technically, while the decision itself stays at national level;
  • ensure that the EBCG does not organise return operations to any third country where risks of fundamental rights violations exist, in accordance with the non-refoulement principle;
  • ensure that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency shall be accountable to the Parliament and Council.

Specifically, the Committee aimed to amend the original Commission proposal so that it would be up to the member states (in the Council) - and not the Commission, to decide on the intervention by qualified majority.

A political agreement was reached in trilogues on 21 June 2016.

The European Parliament adopted its position at first reading under the ordinary legislative procedure on 6 July 2016.

On 6 April 2016, the Council agreed on a negotiating position as a basis for the negotiations with the European Parliament.

The Council adopted the final text of the proposal on 13 September 2016. The Regulation was published in the Official Journal on 16 September 2016 and entered into force on 6 October 2016.

Main points include:

  • Returns: the Frontex agency will have a greater role in returning migrants to their country of origin, but only when it comes to executing decisions which have already been taken by national authorities. The Agency will not be involved in returns between non-EU countries.
  • Scope of the activities of the Frontex, which becomes the European Border and Coast Guard Agency: it will now also include support to Member States in the field of migration management, the fight against cross-border crimes and search and rescue operations. Regarding the Agency’s right to intervene, the Council, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, may rapidly adopt a decision requiring the Agency to provide assistance in the following cases:

1) when a Member State does not comply (within a set time limit) with a binding decision of the Management Board of the Agency to address vulnerabilities in its border management,

2) in the event of specific and disproportionate pressure at the external border that would put the functioning of the Schengen area at risk.

Based on the Council decision, the Member State concerned must cooperate with the Agency. Before making such a proposal to the Council, the Commission shall consult the Agency and inform the European Parliament without delay. If a Member State opposes a Council decision to provide assistance, the other EU countries may temporarily reintroduce internal border checks.

  • Technical Equipment Pool: Parliament’s negotiators ensured that the teams of border guards in the Rapid Reaction Pool will have the equipment they need by introducing the rapid reaction equipment pool that must be available no later than 10 days after the operational plan is agreed;
  • Liaison Officers: Experts from the staff of the Agency will be deployed as liaison officers to monitor all EU Member States with external borders;
  • Accountability and information: the European Parliament will be kept informed through regular reporting and access to information for MEPs.

An important point in the political agreement on the Regulation was that the controversial "right to intervene" was removed, so there could be no deployment of guards to an EU state without its consent.

It also includes a provision specifying that internal border checks in the Schengen free travel area can only be imposed by EU states as a last resort.


Further reading:

Author: Anja Radjenovic, Members' Research Service,

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/11/2019.