Managing the EU external border is the main aspect of Europe’s struggle to control the refugee and migration crisis. At the Dahrendorf Symposium in Berlin Fabrice Leggeri, Director of the EU border control agency Frontex, advocated a “credible” common EU border.
According to its official mandate, the Warsaw-based EU border control agency Frontex “promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter.” The agency was set up in 2004 to organise cooperation between national border authorities and also to dispatch its own officials in order to secure the EU external borders. Frenchman Leggeri has served as Frontex’s Executive Director since 2015.
During the refugee and migration crisis, nearly 900,000 migrants arrived in the European Union via the Eastern Mediterranean route alone – an all-time record and seventeen times the number in the preceding year. To handle these numbers and the challenges they pose for the European asylum & immigration policies – not to mention freedom of movement within the Schengen area – Leggeri explained the urgent need “to regain control of our external border”.
Leggeri also expressed his view that “Europe needs a credible border, not necessarily a closed border”, by which he meant that Europeans must recognise and accept the external borders of the Union as their own common border. According to Leggeri, only then will the member state governments allocate the necessary political and monetary resources to effectively secure the EU’s external border, including the security- and military-related aspects of the border management. Nevertheless a secure and integrated EU external border can only be the product of political will, depending on “whether or not member states give up part of their sovereignty to secure their external border”, as Leggeri argued with specific reference to the situation in Greece and the Mediterranean Sea.
In this context, Leggeri assesses the March 2016 agreement between Turkey and the EU to take back irregular migrants as a success so far: “Turkey has delivered so far”, he asserted, and according to Frontex figures, the number of refugees arriving in the EU from Turkey via the Aegean Sea had decreased by 90 per cent in April 2016.
If the EU does not succeed in securing its common external borders, internal border controls will become a permanent phenomenon and freedoms within the EU will crumble in the long term; as Leggeri warned us, “What is at stake is Schengen”.
About the author: Marcel Wollscheid is the Editor-in-Chief of www.treffpunkteeuropa.de