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Datum

European Parliament scrutiny of Frontex

25-11-2021

Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 transformed Frontex into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and gave the European Parliament a range of tools affording it oversight of the agency's activities. In addition to budgetary discharge, these include an obligation for the agency to provide information to the Parliament, a key role for the Parliament in appointing the agency's executive director, and attendance on invitation by a Parliament expert at Frontex management board meetings. These tools effectively ...

Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 transformed Frontex into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and gave the European Parliament a range of tools affording it oversight of the agency's activities. In addition to budgetary discharge, these include an obligation for the agency to provide information to the Parliament, a key role for the Parliament in appointing the agency's executive director, and attendance on invitation by a Parliament expert at Frontex management board meetings. These tools effectively make the Parliament the key player in terms of democratic oversight of the agency. In 2020, amidst allegations of Frontex's possible involvement in pushbacks and violations of fundamental rights by Member States' authorities at the EU's external borders, the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) decided to investigate the allegations. The Parliament used both ex-ante and ex-post accountability instruments, as part of which it asked questions demanding oral and written answers, requested the Frontex executive director to appear before the LIBE committee to answer Members' questions, and decided to postpone the discharge of Frontex' accounts in respect of the financial year 2019 (discharge was subsequently given in October 2021). In January 2021, LIBE decided to step up its action and established the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) to monitor all aspects of the functioning of the agency, including compliance with fundamental rights, and transparency and accountability towards Parliament. The FSWG conducted a fact-finding investigation, collected evidence and presented its final report in July 2021. While the report 'did not find evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions by Frontex in the serious incident cases that could be examined', it found 'serious shortcomings'. This briefing looks at the accountability mechanisms at Parliament's disposal and how they have been used to ensure that migrants' fundamental rights are respected and upheld at the EU's external borders.

Understanding the EU's response to illicit drugs

28-09-2021

The EU is an important market for illicit drugs, both in terms of consumption and production. An estimated 28.9 % of European adults aged 15-65 have used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime, a majority of them being men. Cannabis remains by far the most used drug, followed by cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy or molly) and amphetamines. Illicit drugs have been claiming an increasing number of lives in the EU since 2012, but their impact goes far beyond the harm caused by their use. The illicit drugs ...

The EU is an important market for illicit drugs, both in terms of consumption and production. An estimated 28.9 % of European adults aged 15-65 have used illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime, a majority of them being men. Cannabis remains by far the most used drug, followed by cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy or molly) and amphetamines. Illicit drugs have been claiming an increasing number of lives in the EU since 2012, but their impact goes far beyond the harm caused by their use. The illicit drugs market is the largest criminal market in the EU, with an estimated minimum retail value of €30 billion per year in the EU alone. Over a third of the organised crime groups active in the EU are involved in the trade in illicit drugs, which, besides generating massive criminal profits and inflicting substantial harm, incites associated violence. Drug markets furthermore have links with wider criminal activity, including terrorism; they have a negative impact on the legal economy and communities, cause environmental damage and can fuel corruption and undermine governance. Illicit drugs have been trafficked into and through the EU for decades, but they are also produced in the EU, for both local and global markets, as is the case of cannabis and synthetic drugs such as amphetamines. In fact, the trade in synthetic drugs in the EU is unique compared to other substances as the production of these drugs and new psychoactive substances in most cases takes place in the EU. In 2019, around 1.1 million seizures of illicit drugs were reported in the EU-27 plus Norway, Turkey and the UK. The European drug market has been remarkably resilient to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the EU Member States carry the primary responsibility for developing their drug policy and legislation, cross-border cooperation is paramount in the fight against illicit drugs. With the problem constantly expanding in scale and complexity, the EU has been increasingly active since the early 1990s, in particular with respect to law enforcement, health-related issues and the detection and risk assessment of new psychoactive substances.

Addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online

15-07-2021

Dissemination of terrorist content is one of the most widespread and most dangerous forms of misuse of online services in the field of internal security. In line with the 2015 European agenda on security, and taking into account the impact of this propaganda on the radicalisation, recruitment and training of terrorists, the European Commission launched a voluntary system for tackling terrorism online, based on guidelines and recommendations. However, given the limitations of self-regulation, in September ...

Dissemination of terrorist content is one of the most widespread and most dangerous forms of misuse of online services in the field of internal security. In line with the 2015 European agenda on security, and taking into account the impact of this propaganda on the radicalisation, recruitment and training of terrorists, the European Commission launched a voluntary system for tackling terrorism online, based on guidelines and recommendations. However, given the limitations of self-regulation, in September 2018 the Commission proposed a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online through the removal of such content within one hour of being posted. While the Council rapidly reached a position on the proposal, the European Parliament adopted its first-reading position in April 2019. Following the European elections, and the appointment of a new rapporteur, interinstitutional trilogue negotiations on the proposal began in autumn 2019. The trilogue meetings were delayed several times, because of the coronavirus pandemic among other reasons. After a new series of terrorist attacks hit Europe in autumn 2020, Parliament and Council reached political agreement on 10 December 2020. The most contentious issues related to the cross-border effect of withdrawal orders and to the use of automated filters to detect terrorist content online. After the Council adopted the text on 16 March 2021, Parliament adopted it in plenary on 28 April. The Regulation entered into force on 6 June and will apply as of 7 June 2022. Third edition of a briefing originally drafted by François Théron. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online

21-04-2021

The European Commission proposed, in 2018, a new regulation aimed at countering the security threat represented by the spread of terrorist content online. The regulation would require service providers to remove online content posted with the objective to radicalise, recruit or incite to violence, within one hour of receiving a removal order from the competent authorities. The European Parliament is due to vote at second reading during its April plenary session on the agreed text reached in trilogue ...

The European Commission proposed, in 2018, a new regulation aimed at countering the security threat represented by the spread of terrorist content online. The regulation would require service providers to remove online content posted with the objective to radicalise, recruit or incite to violence, within one hour of receiving a removal order from the competent authorities. The European Parliament is due to vote at second reading during its April plenary session on the agreed text reached in trilogue negotiations.

Understanding EU action against migrant smuggling

19-01-2021

Around 90 % of those who cross the external European Union (EU) borders illegally do so with the assistance of migrant smugglers. Furthermore, the facilitation of irregular migration is a highly profitable criminal activity, in particular when compared with the relatively low risks incurred. Even though detections of illegal border crossings are currently at their lowest level since 2013, the migrant smuggling business shows sustained high levels of demand. This demand is not only due to the fact ...

Around 90 % of those who cross the external European Union (EU) borders illegally do so with the assistance of migrant smugglers. Furthermore, the facilitation of irregular migration is a highly profitable criminal activity, in particular when compared with the relatively low risks incurred. Even though detections of illegal border crossings are currently at their lowest level since 2013, the migrant smuggling business shows sustained high levels of demand. This demand is not only due to the fact that people in severe distress – whether for economic reasons or because of a genuine fear for their lives – keep trying to reach the EU, by irregular means if necessary. Demand is also high because illegally crossing borders has become harder, due to increased external border controls and other measures put in place to prevent irregular migration. This is where migrant smuggling networks step in. Migrant smugglers are among some of the most agile criminals. They go to great lengths in order not to get caught, quickly adapting the routes they use to smuggle migrants into the EU and their means of travel. They avoid direct contact with their victims, instead using the latest digital communication technologies and involving different intermediaries along a migrant's journey. The facilitation of irregular migration is a complex crime, interconnected with many other criminal activities, such as document fraud, trafficking in human beings or other types of illicit smuggling. Although people willingly pay smugglers to help them cross borders, they do so at great personal risk. Too many lose their lives, or are at risk of serious harm or exploitation. Therefore, preventing and combatting migrant smuggling and related crimes is one of the key priorities of the EU's action against irregular migration and organised crime. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for more and better operational cooperation, data sharing and legal migration channels, and insisted on better implementation of relevant EU legislation.

Hotspots at EU external borders: State of play

25-09-2020

The 'hotspot approach' was presented by the European Commission as part of the European Agenda on Migration in April 2015, when record numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants flocked to the EU. The 'hotspots' – first reception facilities – aim to improve coordination of the EU agencies' and national authorities' efforts at the external borders of the EU, in the initial reception, identification, registration and fingerprinting of asylum-seekers and migrants. Even though other Member ...

The 'hotspot approach' was presented by the European Commission as part of the European Agenda on Migration in April 2015, when record numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants flocked to the EU. The 'hotspots' – first reception facilities – aim to improve coordination of the EU agencies' and national authorities' efforts at the external borders of the EU, in the initial reception, identification, registration and fingerprinting of asylum-seekers and migrants. Even though other Member States also have the possibility to benefit from the hotspot approach, only Greece and Italy host hotspots. In Greece, the hotspot approach remains the key strategy in addressing migratory pressures. The EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016, closely linked to the implementation of the hotspot approach in Greece, led to a considerable drop in irregular migration flows from Turkey to the EU. However, returns of irregular migrants to Turkey – a cornerstone of the agreement – are low. The deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the EU is putting the agreement under increasing pressure. The hotspot approach was also set up to contribute to the temporary emergency relocation mechanisms that – between September 2015 and September 2017 – helped to transfer asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU Member States. Even though 96 % of the people eligible had been relocated by the end of March 2018, relocation numbers were far from the targets originally set and the system led to tensions with Czechia, Hungary and Poland, which refused to comply with the mechanism. Since their inception, the majority of the hotspots have suffered from overcrowding, and concerns have been raised by stakeholders with regard to camp facilities and living conditions – in particular for vulnerable migrants and asylum-seekers – and to gaps in access to asylum procedures. These shortcomings cause tensions among the migrants and with local populations and have already led to violent protests. On 8 September 2020, a devastating fire in the Moria camp, on Lesvos, only aggravated the existing problems. The European Parliament has called repeatedly for action to ensure that the hotspot approach does not endanger the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers and migrants. This briefing updates two earlier ones published in March 2016 and in June 2018.

Understanding the EU response to organised crime

31-08-2020

The EU has made substantial progress in terms of protecting its citizens since the early 1990s, often in response to dramatic incidents, such as mafia or other organised crime group murders, big money-laundering scandals, a steep increase in migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings following the 2015 migration crisis, or – more recently – a sharp rise in cybercrime, fraud and counterfeiting during the coronavirus pandemic. Criminal organisations continue to pose big risks to the internal ...

The EU has made substantial progress in terms of protecting its citizens since the early 1990s, often in response to dramatic incidents, such as mafia or other organised crime group murders, big money-laundering scandals, a steep increase in migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings following the 2015 migration crisis, or – more recently – a sharp rise in cybercrime, fraud and counterfeiting during the coronavirus pandemic. Criminal organisations continue to pose big risks to the internal security of the EU. A rising number of organised crime groups are active in its territory, often with cross-border reach. Organised crime is furthermore an increasingly dynamic and complex phenomenon, with new criminal markets and modi operandi emerging under the influence of globalisation and – in particular – new technologies. While the impact of serious and organised crime on the EU economy is considerable, there are also significant political and social costs, as well as negative effects on the wellbeing of EU citizens. As organised crime has become more interconnected, international and digital, Member States – which remain responsible for operational activities in the area of police and judicial cooperation – increasingly rely on cross-border and EU-level cooperation to support their law enforcement authorities on the ground. Recognising the severity of the problem and the need for coordinated action, the EU has initiated several measures to encourage closer cooperation between Member States and adopted common legal, judicial and investigative frameworks to address organised crime. Parliament has made fighting organised crime a political priority and has helped shape the relevant EU legislation. Future EU action will focus on implementing existing rules, improving operational cooperation – even beyond the EU’s boundaries – and information-sharing, as well as addressing some of the main criminal activities of organised crime groups. Furthermore, the EU aims to make sure that crime does not pay.

Coronavirus and prisons in the EU: Member-State measures to reduce spread of the virus

22-06-2020

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe ...

The coronavirus crisis has put huge pressure on European prisons, already often affected by chronic overcrowding and poor healthcare services. Ensuring strict sanitary conditions, adequate health monitoring and the necessary distancing to prevent an outbreak in these closed environments − particularly vulnerable to contagion − has been a considerable challenge for most, if not all EU Member States. Starting from March 2020, as lockdowns and states of emergency gradually came into force across Europe, EU Member States have taken a number of containment measures to protect prisoners' health. These measures have consisted mostly of suspending all visits and regular activities in order to limit contacts among detainees and also between detainees and the outside world. Transfers of prisoners between EU countries have been put on hold as well. Improved sanitary measures have been taken in detention centres, in terms of both personal hygiene and cleanliness of premises. At the same time, several Member States have sought to reduce overcrowding, by limiting entries and increasing exits, for instance by postponing the execution of sentences or using alternatives to detention. However, according to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, at least half the Member States did not seek alternatives to detention. This briefing looks into the various measures adopted by Member States between early March and the end of May 2020 in response to the challenges posed to the Union's prisons by the coronavirus crisis. While, at the time of writing, containment measures in many Member States are gradually being eased, the long-term impact of the pandemic on prison conditions and populations remains to be seen.

Interoperability between EU border and security information systems

14-06-2019

To enhance EU external border management and internal security, the European Commission has made several proposals to upgrade and expand European border and security information systems. As part of a broader process to maximise their use, the Commission presented legislative proposals for two regulations in December 2017 (amended in June 2018), establishing an interoperability framework between EU information systems on borders and visas, and on police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration ...

To enhance EU external border management and internal security, the European Commission has made several proposals to upgrade and expand European border and security information systems. As part of a broader process to maximise their use, the Commission presented legislative proposals for two regulations in December 2017 (amended in June 2018), establishing an interoperability framework between EU information systems on borders and visas, and on police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration. After completion of the legislative procedure at first reading in the Parliament and in the Council, the final acts were signed by the co-legislators on 20 May 2019 and published in the Official Journal two days later. Both acts came into force on 11 June 2019. The new rules aim to improve checks at the EU’s external borders, allow for better detection of security threats and identity fraud, and help in preventing and combating irregular migration. Third edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Legal migration to the EU

07-03-2019

Entering the EU as a non-European is not too difficult for people from stable countries. Those planning to visit one or more EU Member States can get in as a tourist, with or without a visa. If the intention is to live and work for a longer period, they can use the many possibilities offered by labour migration. Regular mobility schemes also include provisions for other categories such as students, researchers, au pairs and voluntary workers. People wishing to join a family member who is already ...

Entering the EU as a non-European is not too difficult for people from stable countries. Those planning to visit one or more EU Member States can get in as a tourist, with or without a visa. If the intention is to live and work for a longer period, they can use the many possibilities offered by labour migration. Regular mobility schemes also include provisions for other categories such as students, researchers, au pairs and voluntary workers. People wishing to join a family member who is already residing legally in the EU might even be eligible for family reunification. However, for people coming from countries at war or where democracy is in serious peril, or who happen to live in a non-EU country after fleeing their own country, or who are simply looking for a better life, the options are more limited. Moreover, even when options exist, gaining access to them is not always possible for people who find themselves in precarious, dangerous or even life-threatening situations. In 2015, a record number of people tried to reach Europe by all means, often risking their lives along their journeys. Although the number of irregular arrivals in the EU is back to pre-crisis levels, immigration remains one of the key concerns of European citizens and is expected to remain a challenge for years to come. In order to address this challenge, the EU has embarked on a process of reform aimed at rebuilding its common asylum policies on fairer and more solid ground, strengthening its external borders by reinforcing the links between border controls and security, and renewing cooperation with third countries on migration issues. A forward-looking and comprehensive European immigration policy, based on solidarity and respect for European values, requires a balanced approach to dealing with both irregular and legal migration. The EU is committed to help create more, safe and controlled channels to migration both to help people in need of protection and to address labour market needs and skills shortages adequately.

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