|Statewatch article: RefNo# 6590
|Statewatch bulletin, vol 12 no 5 (Aug-Oct 2002)
|While the idea of a "European border guard" has been placed on the back burner for the time being, the EU has recently been developing an alternative approach to greater cooperation on external border control. In place of purely national or wholly or partly "European" external border control, the EU is setting up a complex system of coordination between national border authorities, likely to involve the use of coercive power by "visiting" border guards. But there is no adequate arrangement for accountability and many aspects of the EUís developing plans raise serious civil liberties concerns.
The idea of moving toward "European border management" was first raised during the Belgian Council Presidency in autumn 2001. At that time it was agreed that the chiefs of EU border police would meet regularly in the forum of SCIFA (the Councilís Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum). By this spring, Italy, assisted by other Member States, had prepared a detailed plan for a move toward a "European border guard", the Commission had released a Communication on the same subject and a workshop managed by Finland, Belgium and Austria and funded by the EUís Oisin programme had examined the same subject. Elements from these three programmes (but particularly the Italian project) were then merged in a matter of weeks into a detailed Council border control programme approved in June - without waiting for any input from national parliaments, the European Parliament or civil society.
The Council plan
The Council plan leaves until the future the possibility of developing a "European Border Guard" (paras. 118-120). But much is planned in the meantime. The plan has "five mutually interdependent components": a common operations coordination and cooperation mechanism; common integrated risk analysis; personnel and inter-operational equipment; a common corpus of legislation; and burden-sharing between Member States and the Union. The border guard heads meeting within SCIFA (now imaginatively dubbed "SCIFA+") are in charge of the common mechanism, and their main task is to supervise a highly decentralised network of ad hoc centres, mostly to be set up by summer 2003, that contribute to the application of the plan.
There are to be 16 ad hoc centres, each focusing on a different practical issue. However, despite the central importance of this network, it is mentioned only briefly in the final version of the plan and the 16 issues are not listed. The list of the issues can only be found in the Italian feasibility study.
The 16 issues in the Italian study were:
- setting up an immigration liaison officer network at international airports;
- setting up an immigration liaison officer network in non-Member States, or at Member States" headquarters;
- a network of centres for forged documents;
- the creation of an integrated secured intranet between different national border police units;
- the creation of a uniform practical guide for border control guards;
- personnel exchange among border checking points;
- common risk assessment;
- common training;
- rationalising repatriation operations;
- rapid response unit;
- an expert group for missions abroad;
- coordinated criminal investigations;
- creation of a permanent technical support facility and new technical equipment for border guards;
- quality management;
- centres for border police and customs at external borders;
- a common core curriculum.
The institutional framework for this cooperation is very light. There was no agreement to set up a secretariat to assist with further detailed coordination as the 16 elements get going, because some Member States did not want to give the appearance of the institutionalisation of borders cooperation. Instead, the activities of the ad hoc centres will simply be coordinated by SCIFA+. However, since SCIFA is a Council committee, it would be possible for the Council secretariat to perform such a role witho
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