EU Moves Closer to Unified Coast Guard Agency

Frontex patrol boat rigged for launch (file image courtesy Marine Alutech)

By MarEx 2016-07-06 20:44:00

On Wednesday, the EU Parliament voted to approve a measure creating a unified European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG), bringing the new organization one step closer to actualization.  

"I am very pleased about today’s vote by the Parliament. While the new regulation still has to be approved by the Council of the European Union, we have already started intensive preparations for its implementation,” said Fabrice Leggeri, executive director of the existing border agency, Frontex. "The transition . . . will be a gradual one - some of the tasks proposed in the text of the regulation are new, while others constitute an expansion of the existing ones."

The newly expanded force will work to integrate external border management across the EU; provide assistance to member states for border control and SAR operations; and will "play an enhanced role in returns" of migrants to their country of origin. Individual states will still control their own borders, but under urgent circumstances they may call on the new agency to assist.

For operations, the EBCG will draw on a "rapid reaction force" of 1,500 personnel seconded by the governments of individual member states.

Artis Pabriks, the lead negotiator on the measure for the EU Parliament, said that approval from the EU Council is expected, and it would take roughly four months for the new agency to get set up. He hopes to see it operational before the year's end. 

Approximately 1.8 million migrants arrived in the EU illegally last year, the majority of them by sea. The resulting political pressure within the EU has had widespread repercussions, including the reintroduction of internal border control between several member states, and played a factor in the "Brexit" debate leading up to Britain's vote to leave the bloc. These considerations have also fueled the push for an enhanced, unified external border agency to stem the influx of refugees.