The European Parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee today voted to strengthen the role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. S&D MEPs stressed the importance of the agency in helping member states secure the EU’s external borders, while ensuring that accountability is increased in line with its expanded powers.
S&D Group MEP responsible for the report, Péter Niedermüller said:
“Making sure that the EU’s external borders work effectively and are properly secured is a priority for our Group. The European Border and Coast Guard is there to support member states’ efforts to do this. Its new powers and manpower will allow it to better perform this role, allowing it to respond quickly to issues when they arise and ensure better coordination between different countries. This should focus first and foremost on helping member states stop more needless deaths in the Mediterranean.
“With more power comes more responsibility, we have insisted with its new mandate the agency also becomes more accountable and liable for its actions. We are also pleased that the idea of the agency going into third countries and returning people to other third countries was rejected by the committee. This was a dangerous and legally suspect idea that went well beyond the remit of the agency.”
S&D Spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, Birgit Sippel added:
“Secure external borders are vital to ensure that the Schengen passport free zone can function effectively. These external borders are not just a national issue but something that affects all EU citizens. It is right to have a strengthened EU agency to help member states manage their border control tasks. We urge member states to now remove the continuing internal border checks within the Schengen area as soon as possible.
“This is an important step forward but secure borders alone will not help solve the migration challenges that the EU faces. Stronger border controls must go hand-in-hand with the reform of the EU migration and asylum system. The current rules leave countries on Europe's borders, such as Italy and Greece, to face the majority of asylum cases alone, and allow other countries to shirk their humanitarian responsibilities. National governments having been blocking these reforms for years, we urge them to finally adopt the proposals put forward by the European Parliament.”