Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report


CHAPTER 6: Border Controls and The European Border Agency

31.  In endorsing the Hague Programme the European Council called for the swift abolition of internal border controls (with the new Member States) as soon as possible, provided all requirements to apply the Schengen acquis had been fulfilled and after SIS II becomes operational in 2007. As a "compensation" for the abolition of border controls the Programme calls for the strengthening of external border controls. This involves the start of operations of the European Border Management Agency by 1 May 2005. There is a series of recommendations on the future evaluation and development of the Agency including the possibility of the creation in the future of a "European System of Border Guards". (Earlier drafts referred to a "European Corps of Border Guards" but this has been replaced with the seemingly more neutral "system".) It is also proposed to set up a Community border management fund. We examined the issues arising from proposals to create a European Border Guard in 2003 in our report Proposals for a European Border Guard.[61]

32.  The key issue here is the future direction of the European Border Agency. In spite of the fact that the Agency is not operational yet, there appears to be a lively debate, as demonstrated by the Hague Programme, on what its future role will be. ILPA appeared to welcome the establishment of an evaluation and supervisory mechanism within the structures of the Border Agency.[62] It stressed that the Agency's orientation must be to carry out the policy of the EU "not only as understood within the framework of security but also as part of the internal market and external relations, and in accordance with the non-refoulement[63] principle". UNHCR put forward similar views calling for greater emphasis to be placed on ensuring that persons seeking international protection in the EU were able to access its territory and its asylum procedures.[64] UNHCR expressed particular concern about interception of movements of third country nationals at sea.[65]

33.  Ms Flint noted that Member States considered that it was important to have some oversight via the Agency of difficulties relating to border controls, for example by means of a rapid response if a particular crisis emerged. She noted that "a system" of European Border Guards "does not necessarily mean that we will have a European border guard as a multi-national border guard agency, but rather we will look at how border guards across Europe will work and share best practice and identify problems". The future feasibility study would provide an opportunity for new Member States to express their views on the role of the Agency.[66]

34.  We remain of the view, expressed in our Report on Proposals for a European Border Guard that the case for a centrally managed, multi-national European Border Guard has not been made. We believe that before discussing any future developments regarding the Agency, it is important to evaluate in detail how it will function from 1 May 2005 under its current powers and legal base. In its operations the Agency must respect fundamental rights and take into account the EU's policy towards its near neighbours.


61   29th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 133. Back

62   p 34. Back

63   Ibid.The principle of non-refoulement is the obligation not to return a person to a State where he or she has a well founded fear of persecution on any of the grounds specified in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Back

64   Recommendations on the Hague Programme, paragraph 34. Back

65   Op cit, paragraph 41. Back

66   Q 20. Back


 
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