The European Union is considering setting up a reserve of border guards to respond to surges in illegal migration such as that experienced in recent months in Greece.
The interior ministers of the EU’s member states are to discuss on Monday (8 November) whether to strengthen the current arrangements, under which they designate national border guards that can be mobilised on a request from Frontex, the EU’s border management agency. The proposal would make it more difficult for member states to reject the mobilisation of national border guards: once the initial commitment has been made, governments would be able to veto their deployment only in exceptional circumstances.
The debate will take place less than a week after Frontex sent 175 national border guards to Greece’s land border with Turkey (2 November). The Greek authorities had requested assistance to deal with a surge in illegal border-crossings.
It was the first-ever mobilisation of national border guards through Frontex. The border guards will reinforce Greek patrols for up to two months. The initial dispatch of personnel and equipment, including patrol cars and thermo-vision gear, took place without difficulty, and Ilkka Laitinen, the executive director of Frontex, is expected to brief ministers next week about the experience.
Although the mission to Greece has gone smoothly, both the European Commission and many member states want to ensure that resources earmarked for mobilisation by Frontex are in fact available when requested.
Several European countries have stopped returning rejected asylum-seekers to Greece because the country cannot guarantee their effective legal protection. The latest country to do so is Sweden, which stopped deportations to Greece yesterday (3 November). Under EU rules, member states can deport illegal migrants to the country through which they entered the EU.
The national interior ministers are also to approve the lifting of visa requirements for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Citizens of the two countries who have biometric passports will no longer require visas for visits of up to three months to the Schengen area of border-free travel. The European Parliament had endorsed the lifting of visa requirements for the two countries on 7 October.
On the second day of the meeting (9 November), justice ministers will discuss plans for a European Investigation Order, an initiative by eight member states that would streamline the procedure for law enforcement agencies in one member state to obtain evidence from another member state.
According to a member state diplomat, the draft legislation is not particularly controversial, but numerous details remain to be worked out, and no decision is expected next week.