Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report




COM(02) 233

Commission Communication: Towards integrated management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union.

Legal base:


Document originated:

7 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

16 May 2002


Home Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 17 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

Already discussed

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:




    1. In December 2001, the Laeken Council requested the Council and the Commission to "work out arrangements for co-operation between services responsible for external border control and to examine the conditions in which a mechanism or common services to control external borders could be created"[49]. This Communication is a response to that request. It is also the final strand in the comprehensive asylum and immigration policy which was called for at the special European Council at Tampere.
    2. The document

    3. The Communication begins by taking stock of the current situation. It sets out the legal and institutional framework for the management of external borders, and outlines the evaluation mechanism — pointing out that at present there is no provision for unannounced visits, and that the monitoring visits are not strictly inspections.
    4. The document then outlines the current operational practices. Each Member State is free to allocate responsibility for border checks and surveillance according to its national structures. The costs are borne by the national budget of each Member State — and vary considerably according to the length and nature of the external border. Differences in national legislation and administrative practices can lead to different levels of security between sections of external borders controlled by different Member States, despite the Common Manual for External Borders which contains the detailed rules for checks and surveillance. Currently, co-operation between Member States in relation to external borders takes two forms: exchanges of liaison officers and bilateral police co-operation agreements.
    5. The Commission points out that those responsible for external border management within Member States need to become aware that they are in fact guarding the borders of the EU. It proposes an integrated approach to border management, drawing together first pillar measures[50] (such as strengthening of common external border checks) and third pillar police and judicial co-operation measures[51], and also linked to customs and other controls. It puts forward five areas of common policy:

    • a common corpus of legislation;

    • a common co-ordination and operational co-operation mechanism;

    • common integrated risk analysis;

    • staff trained in the European dimension and inter-operational equipment; and

    • burden-sharing between Member States and the eventual establishment of a European Corps of Border Guards.

It lists for each area the actions to be taken in the short term (about one year) and medium term (before the accession of new Member States), and defines some of the terms used in the document.

The Government's view

    1. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Race Equality, Community Policy and European and International Policy (Lord Filkin) discusses each of the five areas of common policy in turn, saying:
    2. "A Common Corpus of Legislation

      The Communication calls for the recasting of the Common Manual; introduction of mandatory best practice, and production of an electronic practical handbook. We do not currently use the Common Manual and would not use a best practice guide or a practical handbook as these are designed for border guards carrying out controls into the Schengen area. We do have an electronic practical guide and have offered to give a presentation on our system to our Schengen colleagues.

      "A Common Co-ordination and Operational Co-operation Mechanism

      "The Communication suggests the development of an external borders practitioners common unit from the Strategic Committee for Immigration Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA). Such a unit would carry out common risk analysis; co-ordinate and control operational projects on the ground; ensure greater convergence between the national policies in the field of personnel and equipment; and exercise a form of power of inspection. The unit would have a multidisciplinary and horizontal role. The idea of such a unit evolving from SCIFA, rather than the creation of a new institution, is in line with UK thinking.

      "A permanent process of data and information exchange and processing (PROSECUR) is proposed. We agree that information exchange is important but would be keen to ensure that this was not duplicating the work of CIREFI, the Early Warning System and Europol.

      "A Common Integrated Risk Analysis

      "The proposed external borders practitioners common unit would be tasked, in co-operation with Europol and police co-operation authorities, with carrying out a risk analysis. Co-operation with third countries would be a key element of such an analysis and the Communication sees an enhanced role for liaison officers and visa issuing officers. The unit would look at controls at the borders; advances in technology impacting on border control; effects of daily co-operation with our third country neighbours and development of an intelligence function. We would be in favour of such a risk analysis — the Immigration Service's Intelligence Command places great importance on risk analysis.

      "Staff trained in the European Dimension and Inter-Operational Equipment

      "The Commission suggests that convergence of national staff policies should aim to gradually reduce quantitative and qualitative disparities that are likely to generate 'security distortions' between the Member States at the external borders. To achieve this, the Commission is proposing the development of a common syllabus for the training of border guards, with special emphasis being given to the European dimension of their work — including language training and information on the concepts of Member States' border guards. The external borders practitioners common unit would design a curriculum. The UK Immigration Service prides itself on being a multi-lingual, mobile force and would welcome further development in this area.

      "The Commission goes on to suggest the sharing of equipment needed to control the external borders. We support this in principle but would need to consider the practicalities of transporting equipment to other Member States.

      "Burden-sharing between Member States

      "The Commission suggests Member States should establish financial burden sharing as an objective on integrated border management. Some Member States have long external land or sea borders whilst others only have external checks to carry out at their airports. Community budget support could be used to establish a mechanism for financial redistribution between Member States and to finance, in the longer term, the acquisition of common equipment. In the short term ARGO[52] funding could be used for common training. The Commission has undertaken to examine in detail all the budgetary institutional and legal aspects of burden sharing. We fully support the aim of a strong external border and agree that action to prevent illegal crossing of the EU's external border will help to prevent problems further down the line. The UK has opted into the ARGO programme and would support the use of Community money to strengthen the external borders. We support the idea of burden sharing and look forward to discussing the Commission's findings in this area.

      "The Commission proposes the establishment, in the medium term, of a European Corps of Border Guards. The Commission acknowledges the need for amendment to the Treaties but not the legislative implications of this. The Corps would initially handle surveillance functions and later checks at border crossing points. It would be placed under the operational command of the external borders practitioners unit. The Commission has not set out the case for such a corps nor considered alternatives to it. It is unclear whether or not the Commission has taken into account the conclusions of the Italian feasibility study into a European Border Guard as presented at the Ministerial conference in Rome on 30 May 2002. The Commission envisages the corps having the power to apprehend but not to take enforcement action. The proposed corps would have its field of operation laid out in the Common Manual and would not be able to respond flexibly to threats. The UK is in favour of increased co-operation but we believe that this should focus on operational co-operation between national border guard services of Member States to identify and strengthen weak points on the external border.

      "The Communication identifies measures to be taken forward in the short and medium term. The UK supports the prioritising of measures but we would like the Commission to set deadlines for the short and medium term.

      "The Communication has defined the terminology used in the Communication. ... We will want to ensure that these definitions take into account the fact that the UK does not implement the Schengen border control."

      The Seville Council

    3. Before the European Council in Seville, on 21 and 22 June, the Presidency developed an action plan based on the Communication, an Italian feasibility study into a European border police force and a study of police and border security. The Council welcomed the plan and the three documents on which it was based It urged that the common unit for external border practitioners should be set up without delay to co-ordinate the measures in the plan. It requested the implementation, before the end of 2002, of joint operations at external borders, pilot projects open to all interested Member States, and a network of Member States' immigration liaison officers. Further, it requested the implementation, before June 2003, of the following:

    • preparation of a common risk analysis model, in order to achieve common integrated risk assessment;

    • establishment of a common core curriculum for border guard training and consolidation of European provisions concerning borders;

    • a study by the Commission concerning burden-sharing between Member States and the Union for the management of external borders.


    1. We note that the Seville Council called for the implementation of many of the key proposals in the Communication and that its views reflect those of the Minister as expressed in his Explanatory Memorandum. We also note that neither endorsed the proposal to establish a European Corps of Border Guards.
    2. We clear the document.


49  Conclusion 42. Back

50  Measures concerned with visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons fall within Title IV of the EC Treaty (the First Pillar). Back

51  Measures related to police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters fall within Title VI of the Treaty of European Union (the inter-governmental Third Pillar). Back

52  ARGO is a Community action programme to support the implementation of Community legislation in the areas of external borders, visas, asylum and immigration. Back

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