Welcome to the View from Brussels, a perspective from the de facto capital of Europe on the state of counterterrorism, extremism, and radicalisation throughout the European Union.
On December 15, the European Commission unveiled plans for a single, EU-wide Border and Coast Guard. The Commission’s proposal comes in response to the roughly 1.5 million refugees who crossed into the European Union “illegally” in 2015, an extraordinary migration not seen at such a scale since the end of World War II.
While the proposed plan would dramatically enhance border control capabilities, the proposal has been called into question for potentially violating the sovereignty of Member States.
The European Union Border and Coast Guard would replace the current EU border force, Frontex, which has been overwhelmed by the refugee crisis due to exceedingly limited financial resources, capacity, and authority. A strengthened and unified border control agency would help EU Member States cope with the ongoing refugee crisis and better protect Europe’s citizenry, particularly in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant political parties in parts of Europe.
The proposed European Border and Coast Guard package includes:
- A reserve pool of border guards and technical equipment that would be available at the disposal of the EU Border and Coast Guard for increasing rapid response capabilities;
- A larger role for the agency in returning illegal migrants, which would include escorts, monitors, and return specialists;
- Enhanced coordination with non-EU countries to better secure Europe’s external borders;
- An enhanced focus on internal security within Europe, including cross-border crime and terrorism risk analysis; and
- The “right to intervene” in EU Member States when deficiencies along external borders are identified.
The proposal notably calls for the creation of a rapid response force of at least 1,500 guards that could be deployed with three days’ notice, and enhanced technical and operational cooperation at all levels of a common EU border force. The rapid response agency’s budget would also be expanded to nearly double that of Frontex—from €143 million to roughly €280 million a year by 2017.
The proposal is monumental for the EU Union because of the inclusion of the “right to intervene.” This gives the multinational force the authority to deploy to any EU Member State without the consent of that country—a dramatic shift on the issue of national sovereignty within the EU.
EU leaders agreed to expedite consideration of the European border guard proposal. On 18 February during the EU Summit, the European Council concluded that “as far as the ‘European Border and Coast Guard’ proposal is concerned, work should be accelerated with a view to reaching a political agreement under the Netherlands Presidency [June 2016] and to make the new system operational as soon as possible.”
However, the notion of a single EU force that can intervene in any EU Member State without the consent of that country is likely to face a lengthy and uphill battle. Nonetheless, the refugee crisis shows no signs of slowing, and there remains ever increasing security concerns throughout Europe. EU nations will have much to consider.
More information on the proposed European Border and Coast Guard is available here.