France proposes EU border guard corps to deal with refugee crisis – reports

© Charles Platiau
Paris has reportedly proposed establishing a special EU border guard corps under command of the European authorities to exercise control over the Union’s external borders as the EU faces a record inflow of refugees from Middle East and North Africa.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve presented a formal proposal for the creation of such a force to his EU counterparts at a meeting in Luxemburg on Thursday, AFP reported, citing an unnamed EU source. 

The details of the proposal are expected to be discussed at the EU summit in Brussels next week, the source added.

Bernard Cazeneuve’s idea reportedly envisages “an evolution toward a system of European border guards” in the short term. This system would involve each EU state contributing “an annual quota of border guards” based on their population, wealth, and other criteria at disposal of Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

Frontex, which was established in 2004, is an EU agency that manages cooperation between the national border guards of the member states as well as external EU border security, including illegal migration, human trafficking, and terrorist infiltration.

The agency requested 775 additional personnel to deal with the refugee crises in Greece and Italy last week. Such a measure would double the agency’s existing staff in these countries, which currently serves mainly on 30 EU coast guard vessels in the Mediterranean, according to the AP.

In his Luxemburg speech, Bernard Cazeneuve stressed that Frontex currently has “limited” capabilities in managing border control.

At the same time, an EU state would “retain control over the management of the external borders of its territory” under the plan in the short run, the AFP source said, citing the French interior minister.

According to Cazeneuve, “in the longer-term, a more ambitious system could be proposed, aimed at creating a European border guard force” that would be fully under the command of Frontex, although its ranks would be made up of personnel from member states.

The “decision to deploy the corps will belong to European authorities in liaison with the member states,” the source said.

Apart from the French proposal, the member states' interior ministers also discussed measures to strengthen the EU’s borders, develop a credible refugee policy, and toughen up its migrant return program. They also agreed to speed up and intensify the deportation of people denied shelter in the Union, as well as to detain those trying to illegally enter the Union, AP reports.

“We need to see Europe upping its game,” Britain’s interior minister, Theresa May, said.

“If there is no return policy there is no basis for the refugee policy,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, adding that Europe should also work with the developing countries from which masses of refugees, as well as economic migrants, flee in order to reach Europe and find a better life.

The EU also devoted funds amounting to € 400 million ($ 451 million) to tackling the refugee crisis on Thursday. Most of that sum – € 300 million ($ 338 million) – was earmarked for aiding Syrian refugees in countries outside the EU, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, as reported by AP.

The remaining funds were designated to financing the creation of 120 jobs within several European agencies – Frontex, the EASO asylum support office, and the Europol police agency – while € 56 million ($ 63 million) was devoted to humanitarian purposes.

In his speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, French president Francois Hollande urged European countries to unite in the face of the refugee crisis and develop a common EU asylum policy, emphasizing that it would be “a tragic error” to bring Europe’s open borders policy into question.