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EU borders are defended by an agency complicit in human rights violations

Mikuláš Peksa:

The EU’s external borders are immense, stretching from Porto to Helsinki and Dublin to Valletta. It is, therefore, no wonder that protecting this border requires heaps of energy and work by the  European Border and Coast Guard Frontex, which has been in charge of our borders for over twenty years.

In recent years, we have seen Frontex fail in its duty year by year, both internally and externally. As a member of the EU’s Committee on Budgetary Control, I am responsible for supervising how European states, institutions, and agencies use the taxpayers’ money. However, Frontex has been guilty of exorbitant irresponsibility, actively suppressing human rights and international legislation while suffering from hideous internal problems.

I am incredibly grateful that most of my colleagues in the European Parliament are just as concerned about these issues as I am and have decided to reject granting a discharge for 2020 to the agency. Frontex must first undergo the reform the Parliament demanded while granting the last discharge – closing its accounts for 2019. After the new director came into office this summer, the reform was set into motion, but the agency has still failed to meet our requirements.

But why does Frontex even need a reform? I will quickly recount a few issues the agency has recently been plagued with.

  • Frontex actively took part in pushing people beyond the borders and used its vessels to ram the boats of asylum seekers in EU waters. This made it not only complicit in violating human rights and international agreements but guilty of taking dozens of innocent lives. The agency has also actively been trying to sweep its actions under the rug, as a recent leaked OLAF report in Der Spiegel has shown.
  • Frontex is utterly incapable of hiring new staff, and applicants often travel all the way to Poland, where Frontex is located, only to find out they’d failed the medical tests. The agency’s employee records are an incredible mess, and for several years, Frontex has not even been able to hire staff responsible for ensuring its employees uphold human rights.
  • Frontex’s reputation as an employer is also horrendous, and its staff often faces bullying and harassment – at least 17 such cases have been registered.
  • Frontex has had multiple meetings with unregistered lobbyists representing the arms, surveillance, and biometric industries.

The agency is sadly overwhelmed by similar issues, but most have taken place during the reign of the previous director Fabrice Leggeri. Apart from the agency’s dismal state, he is also responsible for the dozens of casualties that Frontex has caused in recent years, but for some incomprehensible reason, no charges have been brought against the former director as of yet. Europe is founded on justice, and Frontex directors are no exception.

To summarize: The EU needs Frontex. However, we cannot keep supporting an organization that uses our money to violate human rights, abuse its employees, and cause chaos everywhere it goes. I genuinely hope that the new Frontex leadership will also realize this and keep taking the critical steps necessary to correct their mistakes. However, until that happens, I cannot personally grant discharge to the agency for obvious reasons.

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