24 June 2011

A practical solution to the migration questions arrives just in time

File:Schengen Monument.jpg
Getting serious on a solution to migration?!

Today’s the last European Council during the Hungarian presidency, with migration and Schengen high on the agenda. (After meeting Jerzy Buzek, leaders will discuss economic issues over dinner. Tomorrow comes migration, Croatia, Southern Mediterranean + endorsing the Danube Strategy and the Roma Framework Strategy. If we have a few moments to spare during the night, we will try to blog on it)

Let’s pick one particular subject, which is of interest to everyone, the Schengen System. Lately, there has been lot’s of focus on one aspect of this complex question, i.e. “the exceptional reintroduction of internal border controls”. As Jon Worth (with a great nose for political dynamics) correctly noticed (see here), public discussion focused on the border reintroduction question as a last-resort measure (and still does, see here a strong piece by Justyna of Reuters). This approach disregarded the actual solutions to the problem (strengthening of Frontex, creating a European Asylum System, cooperation with third countries and strengthening the application of Schengen rules – well detailed in the Barroso letter to President Sarkozy and PM Berlusconi and in the 9 June Council conclusions). The problem with the limited approach is its total spin on the doomsday-scenario of putting back internal borders, without mentioning that this should be a very last resort. And there are several options beforehand. 

So let’s talk about a mostly forgotten aspect of the comprehensive solution to the migration issue: the March European Council tasked us to broker an agreement on the strengthening of Warsaw-based Frontex agency. As part of our super Wednesday yesterday (post coming up), we eceived approval from the member states on our trialogue deal with the European Parliament – see our press release of this morning here

This agreement creates European Border Guard Teams with legally binding commitments on Member States who pledge border guards to the Frontex agency. It allows Frontex to purchase or lease its own assets, thus boosting its capabilities. The agreement also empowers Frontex to process personal data obtained during missions and use it in the fight against criminality (while increasing the guarantees on the respect of human rights). This should make Frontex a capable force to help out those members states whose border is under extreme pressure. (Let’s not forget that border control is primarily a national responsibility.)

For more details see the Financial Times’s blog post here from yesterday (as usual, the FT is one of the best informed Brussels media, coming out with the article shortly after the agreement). 

What remains to be seen of course, is whether we put our money where our mouth is on Frontex and in its next budget the agency will receive the financial resources necessary to use these enhanced powers.


  1. Hey, is migration in hungary such a troubling issue? I mean, what are the statistics of illegal aliens employment etc.? Just wondering out of interest.