Frontex: MEPs refuse to discharge EU border agency over its management in 2020  

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MEPs refused to discharge the 2020 budgets for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the Council, and granted discharge to the European Economic and Social Committee.

345 MEPs voted in favour of the committee recommendation to refuse discharge to Frontex, 284 voted against (in favour of granting discharge) and 8 abstained.

MEPs criticise the “magnitude of the committed serious misconduct” under the previous executive director of the agency, who resigned on 28 April 2022, following the release of a revealing report by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF. The agency failed to protect the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers and, according to media report, was involved in the illegal pushbacks of at least 957 refugees between March 2020 and September 2021, Parliament says.

MEPs also express shock regarding the suicide of a staff member, “related to alleged practices of sexual harassment” and note that 17 cases of sexual harassment in the agency were reported in 2020, of which 15 were closed without follow-up.

Parliament welcomes the appointment of the new interim Frontex director in July 2022, the corrective actions already taken or planned and the positive changes with respect to fundamental rights. They salute the new management style within the agency, which tries to make it a safe place “where people are not afraid to speak up about possible wrongdoings”, while noting that the problems at the agency might be of a deeper “structural” nature and go beyond the failings of individuals. This point was stressed by many MEPs during the plenary debate on Frontex’s responsibility for fundamental rights violations on the EU’s external borders. Many others, at the same time, argued in favour of granting discharge, by pointing to the ongoing reforms in Frontex and progress towards fulfilling conditions that Parliament had made in the previous discharge report.

You can re-watch the debate here.

Frontex operations in Hungary and Greece

MEPs regret that Frontex has not implemented some of the conditions set out in Parliament’s previous discharge reports. In particular, they demand that Frontex’s support for return-related activities in Hungary be immediately suspended, given the rule of law situation in the country. With regard to Greece, they are deeply concerned about the recent revelations that the former Frontex leadership was aware of people being illegally pushed back in the country and supported and participated in financing this. MEPs urge the Commission to ensure that this does not happen again.

European Economic and Social Committee and Council

In a separate vote, Parliament granted discharge to the European Economic and Social Committee, after initially having postponed it in May.

As has been the case for more than a decade, MEPs refused to approve the Council’s discharge, due to the institution’s lack of cooperation.

Background

Parliament has the exclusive right to approve how EU bodies implement their budget, by taking a decision on whether to grant, postpone or refuse discharge. As the discharge authority, Parliament keeps the EU institutions accountable on how they spend public funds. During the discharge procedure, Parliament checks the legality, regularity and sound financial management (e.g. efficiency), and also evaluates to what extent the institution concerned has contributed to achieving the EU’s policy objectives and operated in line with the EU’s values.