Schengen and the management of the EU’s external borders

Briefing 28-04-2016

Events in 2015, most notably the unprecedented arrival of migrants to the EU, but also the terrorist attacks in Paris, showed that current border management strategies have not been sufficient to effectively deal with these challenges. The events have also highlighted how intrinsically linked the EU’s external borders are with the absence of borders inside the EU. The proposed legislation therefore aims to reinforce the security of the external borders by increasing the powers of Frontex and by introducing increased entry and exit checks on anyone crossing the EU’s external borders. However, the exact impact of the proposed measures and whether they will effectively address the EU’s border challenges are less clear, as no impact assessments have been conducted on these measures. According to the studies and discussions referred to above concerning the proposal to reinforce Frontex, it is considered unlikely that it will address some of the key weaknesses relating to Frontex, namely the lack of clear and distinct responsibilities between the agency and other EU agencies; and its current dependency on MS for resourcing. The report commissioned by the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee on this topic also questioned the legality of parts of the proposal, in particular the agency’s right to intervene against the will of a MS. The evaluations of Frontex concluded that the agency operated effectively, in particular in relation to its role as joint operations coordinator. The evaluation reports also noted a need for the agency’s role to be better clarified, and that better access to resources was required. However, while these evaluations showed the agency to be effective, they were mainly qualitative in nature, focusing on interviews with stakeholders rather than on quantitative data on organisational performance. It is therefore uncertain whether the evaluations of Frontex have been comprehensive enough to ensure that any changes to its remit will maximise the potential of the agency to work effectively.