The new EP Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) formally began its work on Tuesday 23 February with the appointment of its Chair and a rapporteur.
Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT) will chair the FSWG, while Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA,NL), will draft the report outlining its recommendations. The group’s aim is to assess all aspects of the functioning of the European border agency, including its compliance with fundamental rights.
Following her appointment as Chair, EP Vice-President Roberta Metsola said: “I am grateful for the confidence of all the political groups in tasking me to lead this investigative Working Group. We are determined that this process will lead to clear answers to the questions that are being asked and recommend improvements in the way things are done. The investigation will focus on different aspects including the compliance and respect for fundamental rights; the Agency’s internal management, and in ensuring that the transparency and accountability standards that are expected are reached.
It is a purposefully wide remit that focuses on different aspects of the Agency’s operations and how it fits into the larger picture of the EU’s role in this issue. I hope the process will give clarity and confidence to people looking at the EU’s role in external border management. We will get to work immediately and top of our agenda will be speaking to European Commissioner Johansson and the Frontex Executive Director, as well as planning to visit Frontex’s headquarters in Poland when possible.”
Tineke Strik, who will draft the report summarising the group’s conclusions, stated: “It is the task of the European Parliament to hold EU agencies accountable in cases of mismanagement or fundamental rights violations. The allegations against Frontex on complicity to pushback operations are worrying and require a thorough investigation, as people at our borders should be able to rely on respect for their human rights. This investigation has to examine the facts and present recommendations to ensure that Frontex actively ensures respect for fundamental rights, but also transparency and accountability in the future.
Our first step in this process will be to conduct hearings with all actors involved, ranging from people within the Agency, to the European Commission, and investigative journalists. An open and democratic process is the only way to restore the trust in the ability of Frontex to manage our borders in compliance with our fundamental rights obligations."
Fourteen MEPs -two per political group- will take stock of Frontex activities and organisation, including its reinforced role and resources for integrated border management and the correct application of the EU acquis. Within the first four months, they will carry out a fact-finding investigation, gathering all relevant information and evidence regarding alleged violations of fundamental rights in which the Agency was involved.
The Frontex Scrutiny WG meetings will take place twice per month and its Chair will regularly report to the Civil Liberties Committee on its work and progress.