La modification discrète du Code Frontières Schengen par le règlement 2016/1624 relatif au corps européen de garde-frontières: comblement d’une lacune ?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON ODYSSEUS NETWORK BLOG  (17/11/16)

By Nuno Piçarra, Universidade Nova de Lisboa & European University Institute.

 

Le Conseil des ministres a adopté le 11 novembre 2016 une nouvelle décisionpermettant à cinq Etats Schengen de prolonger pour trois mois supplémentaires des contrôles aux frontières intérieures en cas de circonstances exceptionnelles. Cette décision faisant suite à celle du 12 mai 2016 qui avait autorisé ces contrôles pour six mois pose question au regard d’une modification de sa base juridique, à savoir, l’article 29 du Code Frontières Schengen (CFS, règlement 2016/399 du 9 mars 2016). En effet, le paragraphe 1er de cet article a été modifié récemment par l’article 80 du règlement 2016/1624 du 14 septembre 2016 relatif au corps européen de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes.

L’article 29 CFS qui établit une procédure spécifique de réintroduction temporaire du contrôle aux frontières intérieures « en cas de circonstances exceptionnelles mettant en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace sans contrôles aux frontières intérieures » a été, avant sa modification, la base légale de la décision d’exécution 2016/894 du 12 mai 2016. Par cette décision, le Conseil a, après avoir imputé à la Grèce des manquements graves persistants liés au contrôle de ses frontières extérieures mettant en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace Schengen, recommandé à l’Autriche, à l’Allemagne, au Danemark, à la Suède et à la Norvège de maintenir des contrôles à certaines de leurs frontières intérieures pour une durée maximale de six mois à compter du 12 mai 2016. Conformément à l’article 29 CFS, le Conseil ne peut pas recommander aux autres État membres de réintroduire temporairement le contrôle aux frontières intérieures sans imputer de tels manquements à au moins un État Schengen. Les doutes concernant la légalité de cette décision ont déjà été examinés dans ce blog (Nuno Piçarra, « Rétablissement des contrôles… »).

Dans sa version initiale, l’article 29, paragraphe 1er, comportait une lacune que la crise de l’asile a rendue manifeste. En effet, s’agissant, pour le Conseil, de recommander « en dernier recours » « à un ou plusieurs États membres de décider de réintroduire le contrôle à toutes leurs frontières intérieures ou sur des tronçons spécifiques de celles-ci », la disposition en question ne faisait pas de distinction entre, d’une part, les « manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution du contrôle aux frontières extérieures », susceptibles d’être prévenus et évités par le biais d’une « diligence moyenne » de la part de l’État concerné et, d’autre part, les manquements qui, ne pouvant pas être contrôlés par un État en raison de la spécificité et de la disproportion de la pression migratoire à ses frontières extérieures, s’apparentent à de la force majeure. Cela ne préjuge pas de la question différente – et préalable – de savoir si, dans une telle hypothèse, compte tenu de ses obligations en matière de protection internationale « notamment en ce qui concerne le non-refoulement », l’État concerné devrait, ou non, appliquer les règles du CFS dont la violation est considérée comme constitutive de tels manquements.

En bref, selon la version antérieure de l’article 29, paragraphe 1er, de tels manquements, quelle qu’en fût la cause, permettaient au Conseil de recommander aux États Schengen de réintroduire temporairement les contrôles aux frontières intérieures. Une fois appliquée, une telle recommandation pouvait, à la limite, impliquer la suspension de l’État concerné de « l’espace sans contrôle aux frontières intérieures ».

L’article 80 du règlement 2016/1624 a introduit dans le paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS deux nouveaux fondements pour le déclenchement de la « procédure spécifique » que cette disposition prévoit. Ces fondements s’ajoutent aux « manquements graves persistants liés au contrôle aux frontières extérieures visés à l’article 21 » CFS. La présente contribution commence par identifier ces deux nouveaux fondements (1), en les soumettant à une appréciation critique afin de savoir s’ils comblent la lacune détectée dans la version antérieure de l’article 29, paragraphe 1er (2). In fine, elle répondra à la question de savoir si, au cas où la nouvelle version de l’article 29, paragraphe 1er, aurait déjà été en vigueur le 12 mai 2016, la décision d’exécution du Conseil aurait pu avoir le même contenu à l’égard de la Grèce (3).

1. Les nouveaux fondements pour la réintroduction temporaire du contrôle aux frontières intérieures conformément à l’article 29 CFS

Le nouveau paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS renvoie à l’article 19 (« Situation aux frontières extérieures nécessitant une action urgente »), paragraphe 1er sous a) et b), du règlement 2016/1624.

Le premier fondement sous a) vise l’État Schengen qui, à la suite d’une évaluation considérant que ses frontières sont vulnérables, ne se conforme pas à une décision du Conseil définissant les mesures qui doivent être mises en œuvre d’urgence par l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et ne coopère pas avec celle-ci. Une telle décision est adoptée parce que l’État concerné n’a pas pris auparavant les mesures nécessaires conformément à une décision de l’Agence et a rendu le contrôle aux frontières extérieures « à ce point inefficace que le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen risque d’être compromis ». Les mesures définies par le Conseil sont donc des « mesures d’atténuation de ces risques » provoqués par l’État concerné.

Le second fondement sous b) pour que le contrôle aux frontières intérieures puisse être réintroduit conformément à l’article 29 CFS vise l’État membre « confronté à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés aux frontières extérieures » qui ne se conforme pas à une décision du Conseil définissant les mesures qui doivent être mises en œuvre par l’Agence et ne coopère pas avec celle-ci. Une telle décision est adoptée parce que l’État concerné soit (i) n’a pas demandé un appui suffisant à l’Agence (lancement d’opérations conjointes et d’interventions rapides aux frontières extérieures ou création d’équipes d’appui à la gestion des flux migratoires), soit (ii) tout en ayant demandé cet appui, « ne fait pas le nécessaire pour mettre en œuvre les mesures prévues ». Ces comportements de l’État concerné étant susceptibles de rendre « le contrôle aux frontières extérieures à ce point inefficace que le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen risque d’être compromis », les mesures définies par le Conseil constituent des « mesures d’atténuation de ces risques ».

Les deux catégories de décisions du Conseil prises en vertu de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er, du règlement 2016/1624 doivent constituer « une réponse unifiée, rapide et efficace au niveau de l’UE » (considérant n° 28 de ce règlement). Les mesures que le Conseil peut définir en vue d’atténuer la mise en péril du fonctionnement global de l’espace Schengen sont énoncées au paragraphe 2 de l’article 19 : (i) organisation et coordination des interventions rapides aux frontières et déploiement des équipes européennes de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, issues de la réserve de réaction rapide, ainsi que des équipes européennes de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes supplémentaires, le cas échéant ; (ii) déploiement des équipes de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes dans le cadre des équipes d’appui à la gestion des flux migratoires dans les « zones d’urgence migratoire » (hotspot areas); (iii) coordination des activités pour un ou plusieurs États membres et pays tiers aux frontières extérieures, y compris des opérations conjointes avec des pays tiers voisins ; (iv) déploiement d’équipes techniques ; (v) organisation des interventions en matière de retour.

Conformément au paragraphe 3, c’est au directeur exécutif de l’Agence qu’il revient de (i) déterminer les mesures devant être prises pour l’exécution de la décision du Conseil et (ii) en accord avec l’État concerné, établir un plan opérationnel et le lui transmettre. L’Agence doit déployer sans retard, et en tout état de cause dans un délai de cinq jours ouvrables à partir de l’établissement du plan opérationnel, les équipements techniques nécessaires et le personnel nécessaire, issu de la réserve de réaction rapide.

Enfin, si l’État concerné ne se conforme pas, dans un délai de trente jours, aux décisions du Conseil prises en vertu de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er et ne coopèrent pas avec l’Agence, la Commission peut déclencher la procédure prévue à l’article 29 CFS.

2. Appréciation critique du nouvel article 29, paragraphe 1er, CFS

Les deux nouveaux fondements prévus à l’article 29, paragraphe 1er, CFS ont en commun le fait qu’ils présupposent des situations de vulnérabilité aux frontières extérieures des États concernés qui sont susceptibles de les empêcher d’appliquer le CFS sans un appui de l’UE et en particulier de l’Agence. Dans le premier cas, cette vulnérabilité est constatée à la suite d’une évaluation effectuée en vertu del’article 13 du règlement 2016/1624 relatif au corps européen de garde-frontières. Dans le second, la vulnérabilité est la conséquence du fait que l’État concerné est « confronté à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés aux frontières extérieures», selon l’expression introduite par l’article 19, paragraphe 1er, sous b), du même règlement.

La fausse neutralité du mot « défi » surprend, d’autant plus que le 1erconsidérant du règlement 2016/1624 se réfère expressément soit à des « flux migratoires sans précédent vers le territoire de l’Union », soit à des « flux croissants de migration mixte ». Quoi qu’il en soit, l’introduction d’un concept identifiant aux frontières extérieures des situations qui échappent au contrôle d’un État, voire relèvent de la force majeure et exigent une action urgente de l’Agence, est susceptible de combler la lacune détectée et doit donc être saluée.

Dans l’hypothèse prévue au paragraphe 1er, sous a), de l’article 19 du règlement 2016/1624, l’intervention de l’Agence ne peut avoir lieu qu’après la constatation d’une triple défaillance de la part de l’État concerné : (i) dans un premier temps, ses équipements techniques, systèmes, moyens, ressources, infrastructures et personnel qualifié, nécessaires pour le contrôle aux frontières extérieures, ont été jugés insuffisants à la suite d’une évaluation de l’Agence concluant à une situation de vulnérabilité ; (ii) dans un deuxième temps, l’État concerné ne s’est pas conformé à une recommandation du directeur exécutif de l’Agence énumérant les mesures correctives nécessaires pour éliminer les vulnérabilités détectées ; (iii)dans un troisième temps, l’État concerné ne s’est pas conformé à la décision de l’Agence énumérant les mesures correctives.

Ce dispositif passe toutefois sous silence la question importante de savoir si l’État concerné est objectivement à même de prendre les mesures correctives qui sont exigées de lui à la suite de l’évaluation de l’Agence, ou, en amont, s’il était objectivement à même de se doter de l’équipement, du personnel et des ressources nécessaires, compte tenu notamment de la dimension de ses frontières extérieures et/ou de sa situation géographique. Une telle omission ne constitue pas forcément une négligence coupable de l’État défaillant. Elle peut en effet renvoyer à une impossibilité objective, en particulier en cas de « défis spécifiques et disproportionnés à ses frontières extérieures », rendant indispensable une intervention de l’Agence à ce stade.

Ce n’est que dans un quatrième temps que l’Agence doit intervenir moyennant une décision du Conseil qui définit son mandat. L’intervention a pour but de remédier aux défaillances de l’État concerné susceptibles de compromettre le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen. Dès lors que le paragraphe 10 de l’article 19 du règlement 2016/1624 envisage ouvertement l’hypothèse que l’État concerné ne se conforme pas à la décision du Conseil et donc décide de ne pas coopérer avec l’Agence, il est logique que, dans une telle hypothèse, le Conseil puisse recommander aux autres États Schengen de réintroduire le contrôle aux frontières intérieures avec l’État concerné, conformément à l’article 29 CFS.

Le second nouveau fondement pour déclencher la procédure spécifique de l’article 29 CFS est marqué par une présence plus immédiate de l’Agence, à laquelle tout État Schengen « confronté à un défi spécifique et disproportionné à ses frontières extérieures » doit demander le plus tôt possible des mesures d’appui suffisant (lancement d’opérations conjointes et d’interventions rapides aux frontières extérieures ou création d’équipes d’appui à la gestion des flux migratoires).

Par définition, un État est « confronté à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés à ses frontières extérieures » lorsqu’il n’est pas à même d’y faire face sans l’appui de l’Agence. Dans cette hypothèse, le but de l’intervention de l’Agence est précisément d’éviter que l’État concerné n’atteigne une situation où le contrôle aux frontières extérieures est rendu à ce point inefficace que le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen risque d’être compromis. Toutefois, s’agissant d’entreprendre les actions nécessaires pour l’exécution pratique des mesures d’appui adoptées par l’Agence, on ne saurait exclure de prime abord une situation où l’État concerné se trouverait dans l’impossibilité objective de le faire.

Pour toutes ces raisons et à l’instar de ce qui a été conclu à propos du premier fondement sous a) de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er, si le règlement 2016/1624 envisage expressément l’hypothèse que l’État concerné décide de ne pas se conformer à la décision du Conseil et de ne pas coopérer avec l’Agence (article 19, paragraphe 10), il est logique que le Conseil puisse également recommander aux autres États Schengen de réintroduire le contrôle aux frontières intérieures avec l’État concerné, conformément à l’article 29 CFS.

C’est précisément ici qui se trouve la raison pour laquelle la modification de l’article 29, paragraphe 1er, CFS introduite par l’article 80 du règlement 2016/1624 n’était pas comprise dans la proposition de la Commission du 15 décembre 2015 (COM(2015) 671).

En effet, dans l’économie de cette proposition, ni l’article 12 (« évaluation de la vulnérabilité »), ni l’article 18 (« situation aux frontières extérieures nécessitant une action urgente ») n’envisageaient la possibilité qu’un État Schengen décide de ne pas se conformer à la décision du directeur exécutif de l’Agence « exposant les mesures correctives nécessaires », qualifiées de contraignantes, ou à la décision de la Commission définissant les mesures à mettre en œuvre par l’Agence si un État ne prend pas ces mesures « en cas de pression migratoire disproportionnée aux frontières extérieures, rendant le contrôle aux frontières extérieures à ce point inefficace que le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen risque d’être compromis ». Selon l’article 18, paragraphe 6, de la proposition de la Commission, l’État concerné « se conforme à la décision de la Commission et, à cet effet, coopère immédiatement avec l’Agence et prend les mesures nécessaires pour faciliter la mise en œuvre de ladite décision et l’exécution pratique des mesures exposées dans ladite décision et dans le plan opérationnel convenu avec le directeur exécutif ». Ce plan exigeait, toutefois, l’accord de l’État concerné, ce qui entravait le droit d’intervention de l’Agence (v. Jorrit Rijpma « The Proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard: evolution or revolution in external border management? », study for the LIBE Committee, 2016, p.18).

Quoi qu’il en soit, la proposition de la Commission impliquait que l’Etat membre ne se conformant pas à cette décision tombe notamment sous le coup de la procédure en manquement. A cette solution « supranationale », le Conseil et le Parlement ont préféré la solution plutôt « intergouvernementale » du nouvel paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS.

Enfin, l’examen complet du second nouveau fondement sous b) de l’article 19 du règlement 2016/1624 visant le déclenchement de la procédure de l’article 29 CFS exige sa délimitation vis-à-vis du fondement relatif aux « manquements graves persistants liés au contrôle aux frontières extérieures visés à l’article 21 » CFS. Une telle délimitation pourrait s’avérer difficile de prime abord. En effet, ainsi que le démontre le cas de la Grèce, l’article 29 CFS, dans sa version antérieure, lui a été appliqué lorsque cet État Schengen se trouvait manifestement « confronté à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés à ses frontières extérieures », pour utiliser l’expression de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er , sous b), du règlement 2016/1624.

Il ne s’ensuit pourtant pas que le nouveau fondement ait un effet de consomption sur le seul que prévoyait l’article 29 CFS avant d’être modifié par le règlement 2016/1624. Dans sa nouvelle version, les manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution du contrôle aux frontières extérieures devraient se circonscrire à ceux susceptibles d’être objectivement évités par une action diligente de la part de l’État concerné agissant seul, c’est-à-dire aux manquements indépendants des « défis spécifiques et disproportionnés aux frontières extérieures ».

Le nouveau paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS peut certes être considéré comme un « signe concret de solidarité envers la Grèce, en contribuant à une solution de la crise à ses frontières extérieures à court terme », par le biais d’une intervention décisive de l’Agence à laquelle la Grèce n’aurait en principe aucun intérêt à s’opposer. Il s’agit toutefois d’une solution temporaire, dès lors que les instruments que l’Agence peut mobiliser à cette fin sont conçus comme temporaires par le règlement 2016/1624 (v. Philippe De Bruycker, « The European Border and Coast Guard : A new model built on an old logic »,European Papers, vol. 1, 2016, No 2, p. 567).

3. La décision d’exécution 2016/894 du 12 mai 2016 au regard du nouvel article 29, paragraphe 1er, CFS

Le constat qui vient d’être établi mène à la question de savoir si, au cas où le nouvel article 29, paragraphe 1er, CFS eût été en vigueur le 12 mai 2016, ladécision d’exécution 2016/894 recommandant à cinq États Schengen de maintenir le contrôle aux frontières intérieures, aurait pu avoir le même contenu à l’égard de la Grèce. La réponse est assurément négative.

En effet, la Grèce étant manifestement « confrontée à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés aux frontières extérieures », le seule reproche qui pourrait, le cas échéant, lui être adressé en vertu du nouveau paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS devrait forcément se référer au fait que cet État ne se serait pas conformé à une décision du Conseil adoptée en vertu de l’article 19, paragraphe 1, sous b), du règlement 2016/1624. Selon cette dernière disposition, le premier reproche susceptible d’être formulé à un État Schengen « confronté à des défis spécifiques et disproportionnés à ses frontières extérieures » est l’absence de demande de mesures d’appui à l’Agence.

Or, dans le cas d’espèce, il est constant que la Grèce a demandé le 3 décembre 2015 à Frontex le déploiement d’une assistance opérationnelle rapide sous la forme d’équipes européennes de gardes-frontières et d’équipement. Cette demande a été approuvée le 10 décembre et les opérations ont eu lieu entre le 28 décembre et le 26 mars 2016 (voyez la décision d’exécution de la Commission du 24 février 2016 arrêtant une recommandation sur les mesures spécifiques à prendre en République hellénique – C(2016)1219, considérant nº 8). Toutefois, selon la Commission elle-même, Frontex “a demandé aux États membres de fournir 743 agents invités pour travailler à la frontière extérieure de la Grèce alors qu’à ce jour, seuls 447 d’entre eux ont été envoyés” (voy. COM(2015) 673, final, p. 6). Res ipsa loquitur quant à la mesure de la solidarité manifestée envers la Grèce par l’ensemble de ses partenaires Schengen…

Par conséquent, il faudrait constater que la Grèce n’avait pas fait le nécessaire pour mettre en œuvre les mesures d’appui demandées à l’Agence, rendant le contrôle aux frontières extérieures à ce point inefficace que le fonctionnement de l’espace Schengen risquerait d’être compromis, pour que le Conseil puisse adopter une décision sur la base de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er, recensant les mesures nécessaires et exigeant la coopération de la Grèce. Une fois cette décision adoptée, il faudrait alors prouver que la Grèce ne s’y est pas conformée, n’ayant pas coopéré avec l’Agence, pour que finalement la Commission puisse déclencher la procédure de l’article 29 exclusivement basée sur le fait que la Grèce ne s’est pas conformée à une décision du Conseil prise en vertu de l’article 19, paragraphe 1, sous b), du règlement 2016/1624.

Pour toutes ces raisons, dans le cadre du nouveau paragraphe 1er de l’article 29 CFS, il semble impossible d’imputer à la Grèce manifestement confrontée à des « défis spécifiques et disproportionnés à ses frontières extérieures », au sens de l’article 19, paragraphe 1er, sous b), du règlement 2016/1624, des manquements graves persistants liés au contrôle de ses frontières. Cela signifie que le Conseil n’aurait pas pu  recommander le maintien du contrôle aux frontières intérieures au-delà du 12 mai 2016.

Toutefois, ainsi qu’il a été signalé au début, le Conseil vient d’adopter  le 11 novembre une nouvelle décision d’exécution recommandant aux mêmes cinq États Schengen de prolonger le contrôle à certaines frontières intérieures pendant une durée maximale de trois mois. Le fait qu’il a basé cette proposition sur l’article 29 CFS tout en faisant table rase de la modification dont le paragraphe 1er a fait l’objet alors que celle-ci s’avère d’une importance certaine dans ce contexte, ne peut que susciter la perplexité…

Continue reading “La modification discrète du Code Frontières Schengen par le règlement 2016/1624 relatif au corps européen de garde-frontières: comblement d’une lacune ?”

Human & humanitarian smugglers: Europe’s scapegoat in the ‘refugee crisis’

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Rachel Landry, Fellow for Refugee Policy, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

In the middle of one night in January 2016, Salam Aldeen received what had now become a routine call regarding boats in distress off of the coast of Greece. Since co-founding Team Humanity, a volunteer rescue organisation, in September 2015, Aldeen had responded to distress calls from approximately 200 boats with a total of approximately 10,000 refugees on board. As per protocol, Aldeen informed the Greek coast guard that he was going out in search of the boats. Yet on this particular evening, Aldeen and the four other volunteer lifeguards with him never reached the refugees in need of rescue.

When a military ship came threateningly close to their rescue boat, they altered course and headed back to shore. Before they reached land, two military vessels and the Greek coast guard surrounded them, ultimately arresting them and confiscating their boat. Their alleged crime: human smuggling. Their actions: attempting to fulfil the widely acknowledged duty to rescue at sea. Aldeen was released from prison after paying a significant fee, but is unable to leave Greece and is required to check in weekly with the Greek authorities. He awaits trial and faces up to ten years in prison.

The arrest of Aldeen and the four volunteers is far from unique. Deeply entangled within the EU’s robust fight against human smuggling in the current ‘refugee crisis’ is the threat of criminalisation of a range of humanitarian acts, which should not be punished but rather praised. The European Commission (EC) has rhetorically acknowledged the importance of ‘avoiding risks of criminalisation of those who provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress’, yet the actions of individual Member States suggest otherwise.

The EC is scheduled to release a proposal by the end of 2016 to ‘improve the existing EU legal framework to tackle migrant smuggling’. As such, it has been reviewing Council Directive 2002/90/EC of 28 November 2002 defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence (Facilitation Directive), legislation that governs human smuggling in addition to other acts facilitating the transit and stay of irregular migrants. Given the much-needed review of the Facilitation Directive and the current strategy to combat abhorrent and ‘humanitarian’ acts of smuggling alike, it is a critical moment to reflect upon the moral quality and complexities of human smuggling.

I offer five observations as a preliminary framework for considering the deficiencies in the Facilitation Directive and where the boundary between blameworthy acts of smuggling and blameless acts of ‘humanitarian smuggling’ should be drawn. These observations stem from my recently published research through the Refugee Studies Centre, The ‘humanitarian smuggling’ of refugees: Criminal offence or moral obligation?

  1.       Combatting human smuggling and all humanitarian acts construed as such are in service of the larger goals of deterring and securitising irregular migration.

The EU is employing all possible tactics to deter refugees and migrants from attempting to reach its Member States’ shores – from the United Nations Security Council Resolution permitting EU security forces to intercept vessels suspected of human smuggling off the coast of Libya, to the deployment of NATO warships in the Aegean Sea, to the EU-Turkey deal to send those arriving irregularly back to Turkey. These policies of deterrence and securitisation are neither ad hoc nor unprecedented. Rather, they are integral to EU law governing irregular migrants and those who assist them.

Notably, the Facilitation Directive is first and foremost concerned with deterring irregular migration. As the first paragraph of the Directive states: ‘[o]ne of the objectives of the European Union is the gradual creation of an area of freedom, security, and justice, which means, inter alia, that illegal immigration must be combatted’. Prohibiting the facilitation of irregular entry is merely one means to combat irregular migration. As Spena argues, ‘[p]aradoxical as it may seem, in the Facilitation Directive’s approach, smuggling, as a form of facilitation, is only wrongful in an ancillary way, as if it was only a form of complicity in the real wrong which is the wrong of irregular migration’. The focus on deterring irregular migration produces a disregard for the smuggled migrants themselves, highlighted by the fact that the Directive does not define its relationship to international human rights or refugee law.

  1.     The Facilitation Directive, as transposed into national law, permits the criminalisation of genuinely humanitarian acts.  

The infringements set out in the Facilitation Directive mirror its expansive intent to sanction, most regularly through criminal law, a wide range of activities that may support irregular migration. Article 1.1.a stipulates that Member States:

shall adopt appropriate sanctions on: any person who intentionally assists a person who is not a national of a Member State to enter, or transit across, the territory of a Member State in breach of the laws of the State concerned on the entry or transit of aliens.  

Article 1.2 includes an optional ‘humanitarian clause’, which applies only to Article 1.1a such that ‘[a]ny Member State may decide not to impose sanctions…where the aim of the behaviour is to provide humanitarian assistance to the person concerned’.

The majority of Member States have transposed Article 1.1a expansively, permitting the criminalisation of a broad range of individuals facilitating irregular entry – from members of smuggling rings putting refugees in deliberate danger to volunteers rescuing refugees in peril at sea. The optional humanitarian exemption ultimately permits the criminalisation of what seems to be a limitless spectrum of activity at the national level, failing to enable subjects to orientate their behaviour accordingly and even prohibiting ethically defensible, if not praiseworthy, acts like those of Aldeen. According to a 2014 report by the Fundamental Rights Agency, the optional ‘humanitarian clause’ has been explicitly transposed in a variety of forms at the national level in only eight Member States.

  1.        The historic example of the rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II clearly illustrates, with the benefit of hindsight, the moral necessity and praiseworthiness of certain acts of smuggling.

The current ‘refugee crisis’ is regularly referred to as the largest crisis since World War II. Equally, international cooperation to resettle refugees in the aftermath of WWII is frequently invoked as a response that should be emulated today. Less frequently invoked, however, are those ‘humanitarian smugglers’known today simply as heroes – who rescued Jews from persecution long before the international community stepped in.

In 1943, 95% of the Jewish population in Denmark was able to escape deportation to concentration camps, in large part due to the collective action of fellow citizens and the Danish resistance movement. When the Nazi regime formalised the order to deport Danish Jews to concentration camps in September 1943, within two weeks Danes mobilised to successfully smuggle more than 7,200 Danish Jews and 680 non-Jewish family members to safety in Sweden, predominantly by way of Danish fishermen.

Those individuals who effectively evacuated almost the entire Jewish population out of Denmark not only made an assessment of the likely consequences and certainty of the impending harm for the Danish Jews if they did not act, but also accepted significant risks to their own lives as a result of their actions. If caught by the Nazis, those who aided and abetted Jews faced criminalisation and even possibly execution. The heroic rescue of the Danish Jews from impending deportation to concentration camp is but one reminder of the historical continuity, praiseworthiness, and unfortunate necessity of ‘humanitarian smuggling’.

  1.     The drafters of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) considered including a safeguard against penalisation for individuals assisting refugees to cross borders irregularly on humanitarian grounds.

Under certain circumstances, Article 31 of the Refugee Convention provides that presumptive refugees may cross borders irregularly and nevertheless be exempt from punishment. The drafters recognised that given the unique and vulnerable predicament of refugees, a refugee may have no choice but to cross borders irregularly and should not be penalised for doing so.

In light of the expansive scope of the Facilitation Directive and the threatened criminalisation of humanitarians like Aldeen, it may come as a surprise that some of the drafters – in particular the Swiss government – recognised that safeguards should exist not only for refugees, but also their rescuers. According to the French representative, organisations assisting refugees to reach safety were engaging in ‘an obvious humanitarian duty’. The French government was nevertheless opposed to modifying the language of Article 31, fearing it would encourage refugee organisations to become ‘organisations for the illegal crossing of frontiers’. Similarly, the United States representative acknowledged that the failure to include a safeguard for those proving humanitarian assistance to refugees irregularly crossing borders might be ‘a possible oversight in the drafting of the article’. Yet, the United States government did not support including protections for those providing assistance.

There is, of course, no safeguard for ‘humanitarian smugglers’ in the Refugee Convention. Yet, there was a recognition that governments should not – and a false assumption that they would not – criminalise those assisting refugees for humanitarian reasons.

  1.     The November 2015 landmark Supreme Court of Canada case, R. v. Appulonappa, may set a legal precedent for a more narrowly drafted smuggling offence in the Facilitation Directive to decriminalise ‘humanitarian smugglers’.

The November 2015 Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) case, R v. Appulonappa, sets a legal precedent for a narrower smuggling prohibition. The SCC ruled that its law criminalising smuggling, S. 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, was overbroad and should be ‘read down…as not applying to persons providing humanitarian aid to asylum-seekers or to asylum-seekers who provide each other mutual aid (including aid to family members)’. S. 117 is not dissimilar to Article 1.1 of the Facilitation Directive in that it theoretically criminalises anyone who facilitates irregular entry, regardless of motive or the means by which the act is carried out.

The SCC ruled that S. 117 exceeded its legislative intent of criminalising organised crime: ‘[a] broad punitive goal that would prosecute persons with no connection to and no furtherance of organised crime is not consistent with Parliament’s purpose’. Possible amendments to S. 117 may serve as a model for a more narrowly drafted prohibition that more accurately delineates between blameless and blameworthy acts of smuggling.

Conclusion

These five observations offer entry points into the moral complexities of human smuggling and the legal imperative of decriminalising humanitarian acts of the facilitation of irregular entry. Ultimately, if the EC intends to provide recommendations to amend the Facilitation Directive that reflect the need to avoid criminalising humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants, it will first need to more narrowly and clearly define acts of the facilitation of irregular entry worthy of criminalisation. The EC’s challenge lies with the fact that the primary purpose of the Facilitation Directive is to deter irregular migration and a narrower directive would ultimately undermine this objective.

In the current crisis, human smugglers – and all individuals deemed as such – have become Europe’s scapegoat. Targeting human smugglers worthy of criminalisation and those ‘humanitarian smugglers’ worthy of praise is Europe’s Band-Aid solution to a problem that can only be solved through safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe.

 

‘I Travel, therefore I Am a Suspect’: an overview of the EU PNR Directive

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON  EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy BLOG

By Niovi Vavoula, Queen Mary University of London

According to the PNR (Passenger Name Record) Directive 2016/681 of 27 April2016, a series of everyday data of all air passengers (third-country nationals but also EU citizens, including those on intra-Schengen flights) will soon be transferred to specialised units to be analysed in order to identify persons of interest in relation to terrorist offences and other serious crimes. This new instrument raises once again fundamental rights challenges posed by its future operation, particularly in relation to privacy and citizenship rights. Therefore, the story of the PNR Directive, as described below, is probably not finished as such concerns open up the possibility of a future involvement of the Court of Justice.

1. The story behind the EU PNR System

In the aftermath of 9/11 and under the direct influence of how the terrorist attacks took place, the US legislature established inextricable links between the movement of passengers, ‘border security’ and the effective fight against international terrorism. Strong emphasis was placed on prevention through pre-screening of passengers, cross-checking against national databases and identification of suspicious behaviours through dubious profiling techniques. At the heart of this pre-emptive logic has been the adoption of legislation obliging airlines flying into the US to provide their domestic authorities with a wide range of everyday data on their passengers. These so-called PNR data constitute records of each passenger’s travel arrangements and contain the information necessary for air carriers to manage flight reservations and check-in systems. Under this umbrella definition, a broad array of data may be included: from information on name, passport, means of payment, travel arrangements and contact details to dietary requirements and requests for special assistance. Amidst concerns regarding the compliance of such mechanisms with EU privacy and data protection standards, this model was internalized at EU level through the conclusion of three PNR Agreements with the US – one in 2004, which wasstruck down by the CJEU in 2006, and others in 2007 and 2012. In addition, PNR Agreements with Canada (currently awaiting litigation before the CJEU) andAustralia have also been adopted.

The idea of developing a similar system to process EU air travel data had been on the agenda for almost a decade, particularly since the EU-US PNR Agreements contain reciprocity clauses referring to the possibility of the EU developing such systems. The first proposal for a Framework Decision dates back to 2007. However, no agreement was reached until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. A revised proposal was released in 2011, essentially mimicking the EU-US PNR model, at least as regards the types of data to be processed and the focus on assessing the risks attached to passengers as a mean of preventing terrorist attacks or other serious crimes. In comparison to the proposed Framework Decision it constituted an improvement (for instance, it provided for a reduced retention period and prohibited the processing of sensitive data), yet it was met with great scepticism by a number of EU actors, including the European Data Protection Supervisor, the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Article 29 Working Party who argued that it failed to respect the principles of necessity and proportionality. Eventually, the proposal was rejected by the European Parliament on fundamental rights grounds, but the voting was postponed and the proposal was transferred back to the LIBE Committee.

The EU PNR project was brought back to life after the Charlie Hebdo events in January 2015. In the extraordinary JHA Council meeting of 20 November, immediately after the Paris terrorist attacks, the Council reiteratedthe urgency and priority to finalise an ambitious EU PNR before the end of 2015’. Indeed, on 4 December 2015 a compromise text was agreed. A few days later, the Council confirmed the agreement, but the Parliament did not give its blessing until April 2016, presumably in the light of the negotiations on the Data Protection legislative reforms, which were running in parallel. The fact that the legality of the EU-Canada PNR Agreement was disputed did not affect the course of the negotiations.

2. The EU PNR Directive in a nutshell

The EU PNR Directive places a duty on airline carriers operating international flights between the EU and third countries to forward PNR data of all passengers (as set out in Annex 1) to the Passenger Information Unit (PIU) established at domestic level for this purpose (Article 4). According to Article 2 of the Directive, Member States are given the discretion to extend the regime set out in the Directive to intra-EU flights, or to a selection of them (for a discussion see Council Documents 8016/11 and 9103/11, partly accessible). Perhaps unsurprisingly, all participating Member States have declared their intention to make use of their discretion.

Once transmitted, the data will be stored and analysed by the PIU. The purpose of this is to ‘identify persons who were previously unsuspected of involvement in terrorism or serious crime’ and require further examination by the competent authorities in relation to the offences listed in Annex II of the Directive. Contrary to the Commission’s assertions that PNR data will be used in different ways – reactively, pro-actively and in real-time – the focus on prevention is central. The analysis entails a risk assessment of all passengers prior to their travel on the basis of predetermined criteria to be decided by the respective PIU and possibly involving cross-checking with existing blacklists (Article 6(3)).

Furthermore, the PIUs will respond to requests by national authorities to access the data on a case-by-case basis and subject to sufficient indication (Article 6(2(b)). Nevertheless, processing should not take place on the basis of sensitive data revealing race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, trade union membership, health or sexual orientation etc. (Recital 20). According to Article 12, the initial retention period is six months, after which PNR data will be depersonalised, meaning that the PIU is entrusted with the task of masking out the names, address and contact information, payment information, frequent flyer information, general remarks and all API data. This process should not be confused with anonymisation, as the data could be re-identifiable and may still be used for criminal law purposes under ‘very strict and limited conditions’ (Recital 25). Therefore, upon expiry of the six-month retention period, disclosure of the full PNR data is permitted if so approved by a judicial authority or another national authority competent to review whether the conditions have been met and subject to information and ex post review by the Data Protection Officer of the PIU (Articles 12(3) and 5).

3. Privacy and surveillance of movement

The challenges that the development of the EU PNR system poses to the protection of privacy and data protection rights are acute. In essence, as with thePNR Agreements, the Directive allows the systematic, blanket and indiscriminate transfer, storage and further processing of a wide range of personal data of millions of travellers from and to the EU. Drawing from Digital Rights Ireland and the recent opinion of AG Mengozzi on the EU-Canada PNR Agreement, the interference with the rights to privacy (Article 7 EUCFR and 8 ECHR) and data protection (Article 8 EUCFR) is particularly serious. On the basis of the data collected, which include biographic information, credit card details and contact information, law enforcement authorities shall be able to compile a rather complete profile of travellers’ private lives.

The involvement of the private sector in the fight against terrorism and serious crime is considerably extended, particularly if one takes into account that the obligations on air carriers are extended to non-carrier economic operators (e.g. travel agencies). In addition, the inclusion of intra-EU flights within the scope of the Directive significantly expands the reach of surveillance. Indeed, back in 2011, it was noted that intra-EU flights represent the majority of EU flights (42%) followed by international flights (36%), and only 22% of flights operate within a single Member State (Council Document 8016/11). In this framework, the movement of the vast majority of travellers, including EU citizens, is placed under constant monitoring, irrespective of the fact that they are a priori innocent and not suspected of any criminal offence. In fact, the operation of the PNR scheme signifies the reversal of the presumption of innocence, whereby everyone is deemed as a potential security risk, thus necessitating their examination in order to confirm or rebut this presumption. Besides, there is no differentiation between flights transporting persons at risk and others.

Furthermore, the risk assessment will take place in a highly obscure manner, particularly since the Directive fails to prescribe comprehensively and in detail how the data will be analysed. The underlying rationale is the profiling of all passengers and the identifying of behavioural patterns in a probabilistic logic, but nowhere in the Directive it is indicated that this is indeed the case. This lack of clarity raises concerns considering that the recently adopted Data Protection Directive includes a definition of profiling (Article 3(4)). Moreover, it is stated that ‘relevant databases’ may be consulted, however, it is not clear which these are. For instance, a possible examination on a routine basis of the databases storing asylum seekers’ fingerprints’ or visa applicants’ data (Eurodac and VIS respectively) will frustrate their legal framework, resulting in a domino effect of multiple function creeps. It may even grow the appetite for Member States to desire the systematic processing of EU nationals’ personal data in centralised databases in the name of a more ‘efficient’ fight against terrorism.

This ambiguous modus operandi of PIUs may even call into question the extent to which the interference with privacy is ‘in accordance with law’ (Article 8(2) ECHR) or in EU terms ‘provided for by law’ (Article 52(1) EU Charter). According to settled case law of the ECtHR, every piece of legislation should meet the requirements of accessibility and foreseeability as to its effects (Rotaru v Romania). The lack of clear rules as to how the processing of data will take place may suggest that travellers cannot foresee the full extent of the legislation.

Another contested issue is the ambiguous definitions of terrorism and serious crimes at EU level. The offences falling under the remits of terrorism are currently revised, which had led to criticism for lack of clarity, whereas the definition of serious offences (acts punishable by a custodial sentence or detention order of a maximum period of three years or longer) constitutes a relatively low threshold, particularly in those Member States where domestic criminal law allows for potentially long custodial sentences for minor crimes. In addition, as regards the conditions of access by national competent authorities, the requirement that the request must be based on ‘sufficient indication’ seems to falls short of the criteria established in Digital Rights Ireland. The threshold is particularly low and may lead to generalised consultation by law enforcement authorities, whereas it is uncertain who will check that there is indeed sufficient indication. As for the offences covered by the scope of the Directive, although Annex II sets out a list in this regard, PNR data could still be used for other offences, including minor ones, when these are detected in the course of enforcement action further to the initial processing.

Moreover, in relation to the period for which the data will be retained, it appears that the EU institutions by no means have a clear understanding of what constitutes a proportionate retention period. For instance, the 2007 proposal envisaged an extensive retention period of five years, after which time the data would be depersonalised and kept for another eight years, whereas the 2011 proposal prescribed a significantly reduced initial retention period of 30 days, after which the data would be anonymised and kept for a further period of five years. In its General Approach (Council Document 14740/15), the Council called for an extension of the initial retention period to two years, followed by another three years of storage for depersonalised data. A more privacy-friendly approach can be found in an Opinion of the Council Legal Service dating from 2011, according to which the data of passengers in risky flights would be initially retained for 30 days and then be held for an overall period of six months (Council Document 8850/11in German). Some Member States supported a retention period of less than 30 days (Council Document 11392/11). Although it is welcomed that there are two sets of deadlines and, more importantly, that re-personalisation may take place only under limited circumstances. However, there is no indication of why the chosen retention periods are proportionate. Furthermore, an approach suggesting a differentiation between flights at risk or not at risk, with different retention periods, seems more balanced.

4. Free movement and citizenship concerns

In addition to the privacy challenges highlighted above, another point of concern is whether the processing of PNR data, including on intra-EU flights, could infringe free movement enjoyed by EU citizens. In this respect, the Commission Legal Service found that the EU PNR does not obstruct free movement (see Council Document 8230/11, which is partially available to the public, although the outcome of the opinion is attested in Council Document 8016/11). Nonetheless, the Parliament managed to include a reference that any assessments on the basis of PNR data shall not jeopardise the right of entry to the territory of the Member States concerned (in Article 4). The extent to which this reference is sufficient is doubtful.

According to Article 21 of the Schengen Borders Code, police controls performed in the territory of a Member State are allowed insofar as they do not have the equivalent effect of border control. Such an effect is precluded when, inter alia, the checks are carried out on the basis of spot-checks. In Melki, the CJEU found that ‘controls on board an international train or on a toll motorway’ limiting their application to the border region ‘might (…) constitute evidence of the existence of such an equivalent effect’ (para 72). By analogy, the focus on controls at the border area to the systematic manner set out in the directive, could have the equivalent effect of a border check. The lack of any differentiation between flights at risk or not at risk (an approach that was also favoured by the Council Legal Service, Council Document 8850/11) and the fact that member States are left entirely free to determine the extent to which they monitor flights to and from other Member States could enhance the risk of falling into the category of controls with an equivalent effect to border control.

5. Conclusion

The EU PNR Directive is yet another example of how the counter-terrorism rhetoric outweighs serious fundamental rights concerns in the name of ensuring security. The storyline is well-known: after a terrorist attack, numerous ideas – either incorporated in legislative proposals that have stalled or which were ultimately too ambitious and controversial to be presented in the first place – feature on the EU agenda. The EU PNR initiative was buried due to privacy concerns and was brought back from the dead when the circumstances matured. Soon national law enforcement authorities will put their hand into the passengers’ data jar and will deploy their surveillance techniques on an unprecedented and unpredictable scale.

By internalising US standards, the EU puts the privacy of individuals under threat. The new instrument does no longer target third-country nationals only, but also EU citizens, thus marking the end of an era where instruments were used ‘solely’ on foreigners. Undoubtedly, there is a strong ‘momentum’ for justifying mass surveillance practices. In waiting for the ruling on the EU-Canada PNR Agreement, as well as the ruling on Tele2 Sverige (following up on Digital Rights Ireland), one can only hope that the CJEU will uphold its inspiring reasoning and reiterate the important limits placed on deploying surveillance practices, by giving proper weight to the fundamental right to the protection of personal data.

Establishing the European Border and Coast Guard: all-new or Frontex reloaded?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS (NB emphasis are added)

by Herbert Rosenfeldt, (Research Assistant and PhD candidate, University of Passau)

Introduction

Attending a birthday party at a remote checkpoint at the Bulgarian external border with Turkey does not sound like fun. Unless you are the adventurous type, you would probably hesitate to join in if it was not for someone special. Indeed, last Thursday high ranking EU and Member States’ officials visited Bulgaria’s Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint to inaugurate the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency a.k.a. Frontex.

This is so far the most visible sign of the coming into force of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation on the same day. Not lacking pathos or high expectations (Donald Tusk: “To save Schengen, we must regain control of our external borders. A new European Border and Coast Guard Agency is being created”), the new EBCG seeks to reinforce external border control against the background of last year’s migratory pressure put on the southern and south-eastern EU Member States with external Schengen borders. According to EU officials’ analyses, national border guards had been unable or unwilling to “protect” the Schengen area effectively by stopping the influx of irregular migrants. Frontex, on the other hand, was held to have been too ill-equipped in terms of powers, personnel and equipment to render sufficient support or remedy the situation. There is a simple, perhaps simplistic, rationale behind the new EBCG – one that gathered broad consensus among Member States and EU institutions resulting in a fast track legislative procedure of less than a year. The stronger EU external border control, the less permeable borders are for migrants; the smaller the number of migrants arriving, the smaller the problems within the Schengen area. Those problems comprise allocating asylum seekers and processing their claims, providing food and shelter, or safeguarding internal security and freedom of movement. The focus on external borders has been accurately criticised, inter alia, here and here.

Is the new EBCG truly a “milestone in the history of European border management”, as suggested by birthday guests but contested by others? Is the new agency something special at all? Hence is it worth joining the congratulants (if belatedly)? What birthday wishes should be made? Surely only time and further in-depth analysis can tell. Steve’s earlier post here gave the broader picture of last year’s legislative proposals on border control and migration. For now, and after two preliminary thoughts, I would like firstly to make some observations on the changing concept of EU external border management. Secondly, I highlight some institutional changes. Thirdly and fourthly, I will focus on two much debated novelties in external border control: emergency interventions and the complaints mechanism in the context of Fundamental Rights accountability.

Towards Securitisation

The drafters of the new regulation were discernibly concerned by the loss of control at Europe’s southern and south-eastern borders. Adapting to the ongoing political discourse, the wording of the Regulation (Article 1, see also Articles 4 and 15) gives top priority to regaining and keeping control of the migration situation and to efficient border management. Migration challenges and potential future threats are mentioned in succession, followed by serious cross-border crimes. The aim to be achieved is a high level of internal security within the Union while safeguarding the free movement of persons within it. In a subtle way, this almost equates migratory pressure through irregular migration with potential threats to internal security and cross-border crime. In further construing Article 1 of the Regulation, it appears that affording international protection and protecting human rights are clearly no objectives of European border management. Rather, they are perceived as restrictions to securing EU borders.

Another feature of this security-orientated approach is new migration management support teams to be deployed in hotspot areas (Article 18). Support in processing asylum claims and returning third country nationals does not help to protect the Schengen area from migrants at first sight. However, if it is done rapidly in hotspot areas, migrants are effectively not entering the Schengen area, hence apparently more security. Along the same line of reasoning, increased capacities to support return operations (Article 18, 28 et seq.) reflect political demand for enforcing third country nationals’ returns.

Legal instruments rearranged

The law of EU external border control is no role model for legal clarity and certainty. Legal acts such as the Frontex Regulation have frequently been amended, and they are intertwined with various other EU legal acts. The new Regulation at least partly smoothes this scattered landscape by merging the Frontex Regulation and the Regulation on Rapid Border Intervention Teams into one. Furthermore, the Schengen Borders Code has been amended (see below). Although based on the same EU competence (Article 77 (2) (d) TFEU), applied at the external Schengen borders and closely related to the work of Frontex and the national external border guards, Regulations on EUROSUR and surveillance of the external sea borders remained untouched. Hence the legislator missed the opportunity to create a single comprehensible piece of legislation apart from the SBC, the latter covering other subject matters such as entry conditions of third country nationals and internal border controls anyway.

New concept of external border controls

Before, States with external Schengen borders were exclusively tasked with policing those borders. Under the Frontex Regulation, border control fell into the sole competence of the Member States. Frontex’s main task then was to render border control more effective by coordinating Member States’ joint activities and providing surveillance data, technical support and expertise. The common conceptual framework informing border controls, called “integrated management system for external borders” (now Article 77 (1) (c) TFEU), only featured in strategy papers and policy recommendations of the Commission and the Council such as the non-binding Updated Schengen Catalogue 2009.

The new EBCG consists of the EBCG Agency and the national border and coast guards. Although Member States retain primary responsibility for border management, there is a clear shift towards responsibility shared with the Agency (Article 5 of the Regulation). On scrutiny, the new system arranges the Agency and the Member States in a hierarchical order. It is the Agency’s task to establish a technical and operational strategy for integrated border management. All national strategies will have to comply with it. Although co-operation outside the Agency’s remit remains possible, this is limited to action compatible with the Agency’s activities. Therefore, there is not just well-known supremacy of EU law at work in this area of shared competences, but supremacy of the Agency’s strategies, broadly phrased tasks and objectives. On paper (see the eighth and eleventh recitals), the political development of integrated border management is left to the EU organs, whereas technical and operational aspects will be clarified by the Agency. The dividing line is of course far from clear. As a result, the Agency will almost inevitably assume a more proactive role.

In my view, shared responsibility serves as a chiffre to justify taking away Member States’ discretionary powers in border control. In practice, the Agency gains greater impact and tools of supervision and coercion, as will be seen below. Still, the new Regulation has to be given credit for legally defining components of European integrated border management for the first time ever.

Institutional changes

In short, Frontex becomes … erm … Frontex! Despite last week’s “all-new” rhetoric, little will change in the constitutional setting of the Agency. As a decentralised (i.e. regulatory) agency it remains an independent EU body with legal personality. Its headquarters will remain in Warsaw. The Agency’s official name, which nobody used before, changes to a shorter name, which probably nobody will use going forwards – and that is alright because it reflects that the Agency is not founded anew but continues all its activities, albeit with expanded tasks and more resources.

To this end, the Agency’s staff grows from 309 in 2015 to 1,000 in 2020. The number of Member States’ border guards deployed in EBCG teams remain subject to annual bilateral negotiations. At the same time, a rapid reaction pool of 1,500 European border guards as a standing corps operational within 5 days has been inscribed in the Regulation. The Agency continues to maintain a technical equipment pool composed of equipment owned by either the Agency itself or by the Member States. With an increase in budget to more than twice the amount of 2015 (€143.3 to €322 million in 2020), the Agency might actually start acquiring equipment on its own in the future.

Of the Agency’s tasks (see the long list in Article 8 (1) of the Regulation), most have been assigned to Frontex before. Characteristic of the new supervisory role are vulnerability assessments carried out by the Agency to evaluate the capability and readiness of Member States’ border guard to act in emergencies. The assessment might lead to binding recommendations by the Executive Director. To disregard them can eventually result in a situation requiring urgent action as described further below. Moreover, Frontex shall deploy liaison officers in the Member States monitoring and reporting on national external border management. It is true that command and control in EBCG operations remains with the host Member State. However, from now on, the host Member State has not only to consider the Frontex coordinating officer’s views, but also to follow them as far as possible.

Another noteworthy development concerns the Agency’s support rendered to Member States coping with migratory pressure at so-called hotspots. The existing provisions on hotspots in EU Decisions on relocation of asylum-seekers have been codified in Article 18 of the Regulation, which now assigns a supportive role to Frontex in migration management. This includes screening, registering and providing information to third country nationals on their right to apply for international protection. It further includes facilitating their return right from the hotspot area.

One might argue that the European Asylum Support Office is better placed to do all that. However, in my opinion the crucial question is to what extent any EU agency involved influences or determines the Member States’ decisions on entry, to afford international protection or to return migrants. Such executive powers have not been granted to EU institutions and therefore – at least by law – they remain firmly within the Member States’ jurisdiction. The provisions provide for tailor-made support teams coordinated by all relevant Union agencies under the auspices of the Commission. Thus, the new Regulation acknowledges the role of agencies and the significance of hotspots without clarifying much. It remains to be seen how the agencies will delineate their respective contributions. If you have always been looking for a legal definition of hotspot area, at least you will find one in the new Regulation (Article 2 (10)).

Situations requiring urgent action – right to intervene?

How to deal with emergency situations at the external borders of Member States unwilling to act – that was the only matter of serious contention during the legislative process. In normal operation and as before, a Member State at first formally requests the Agency’s support and the launch of EBCG operations (Articles 14 (1), 15 (1) and (2), 18 (1) et al). At the second stage, the Member State and the Executive Director agree on the operational plan (Article 16 (2)). Lastly, the host Member State itself retains command for the whole operation (Article 21 (1)). The Commission proposal for the Regulation challenged those safeguards for the Member States’ sovereign right to border protection. The Commission envisaged itself initiating emergency interventions conducted by the Agency and supported by the Member State concerned. Boldly, this was labelled the Agency’s “right to intervene”. Understandably, it stirred criticism among Member States.

The subsequent trilogue put things in order again: Now it is an implementing act of the Council (proposed by the Commission) which substitutes the Member State’s request at the first stage if (a) the State did not follow the recommendations resulting from vulnerability assessments or (b) it faces specific and disproportionate challenges at his external borders without requesting or supporting joint EBCG operations (Article 19 (1)). The implementing act of the Council authorises the Agency to take various measures. It is binding upon the Member State. In turn, it becomes evident that the Member State’s formal request in accordance with the normal procedure might no longer be as voluntary as the wording suggests. Because if joint European action is deemed necessary, there is always the possibility that an emergency intervention will eventually be initiated.

Yet, at the second stage, the Member State still has to agree on the operational plan submitted by the Agency (Article 19 (5)). This might be interpreted as linking emergency interventions to the Member State’s consent after all. However, in the light of the purpose of emergency interventions, I submit that the duty to fully comply with the Council decision and to this end cooperate with the Agency entails the duty to consent to the operational plan. Otherwise, it would always be possible for reluctant Member States to impede the whole procedure depriving it of much of its force.

For the implementation of the measures prescribed by the Council, the Member State concerned still acts as host state. As a consequence, that State retains command and control of the operations and can be held liable as in normal operations. It can be questioned whether an unwilling State should be forced to lead a joint operation in times of emergency. At the same time, however, it is most likely that different entities will be engaged in the process. The decision not to conduct operations or to request assistance is often taken at a high political level, whereas operational command is exercised within the national border guard authorities.

Lastly, Article 19 (10) most remarkably links the Member State’s non-compliance with the Council decision and failure to cooperate with the Agency to prospective national measures taken within the Schengen area. According to newly amended Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code, the Council upon proposal by the Commission may recommend to Member States the reintroduction of controls at their internal borders if the Member State’s behaviour (a) puts the functioning of the area without internal borders at risk, and (b) leads to a serious threat to public policy or internal security. This mechanism can be triggered only 30 days after the Council takes its (urgent?!) decision. As a result, Member States that do not – for whatever reason – cooperate at their external borders in emergencies can de facto be temporarily excluded from the area of free movement. The much-stressed concept of solidarity (Article 80 TFEU) hence turns into its evil twin: showing solidarity means complying with the EBCG activities à la EU. It becomes the prerogative of the EU institutions to determine who is in solidarity, and the lack thereof entails serious consequences.

In sum, the new Regulation establishes a legal obligation to cooperate in situations requiring urgent action of the Member State concerned. If the State does not comply, there is no way to enforce this duty or to deploy EBCG teams on his territory against his will. The only sanction seems to urge other Member States to close their internal borders instead.

Human Rights complaints mechanism and accountability

When Frontex was established in 2004, the Fundamental Rights (FR) implications of its work had been completely overlooked. The founding Regulation did not contain any specific references to FR. Over the following years through a piecemeal approach, largely affirmative and declaratory FR obligations found their way into the Regulation. More importantly, Frontex drew up an FR strategy (followed by an action plan) in 2011. At the same time, a consultative forum and an FR officer were established to give advice on FR matters and strengthen FR compliance. With the new Regulation, there are minor improvements on the human rights record. Article 1 now mentions FR, they form part of compulsory reporting and evaluation schemes as set out in the operational plan, and there is a single comprehensive provision spelling out FR obligations (Article 34).

The Regulation finally introduces a FR complaints mechanism (Article 72, discussed here) as demanded by European Parliament, EU Ombudsman and Council of Europe since 2013. Any person directly affected by actions of staff during EBCG operations can file a complaint about FR violations with the FR officer. The FR officer is responsible for setting up the complaints mechanism, administering complaints and deciding on their admissibility. He or she then directs them to either the Executive Director or the competent national authority for them to decide on the merits and an appropriate follow-up. The FR officer then again monitors this decision as well as the follow-up.

In my view, the effectiveness of the mechanism depends on two preconditions. Firstly, the FR officer’s resources should increase significantly to stem the Herculean tasks ahead of him. Secondly, his institutional independency within the Agency has to be reinforced, bearing in mind that he is a member of staff and dependent on good working relationships with other members of staff. Several open questions remain. For example, the provision leaves open how the FR officer will enforce the appropriate follow-up by the Agency or the Member States. It does not make clear that the complaints mechanism does not affect other remedies, nor does it foresee an appeals procedure with an independent body. The FR officer and ultimately the Executive Director or the Member States authorities will have to answer difficult legal questions on who is “directly affected” by an action and who is responsible for it (see below). For the development of the law, it would have been better if a court or tribunal had had subsequent jurisdiction. So far, actions for annulment or damages (Articles 263, 268 TFEU) have not generated any EU case law regarding Frontex, and except for its judgment in Hirsi Jamaa, the ECtHR was not able to fill the gap neither.

“The extended tasks and competence of the Agency”, the 14th recital of the Regulation reads, “should be balanced with strengthened fundamental rights safeguards and increased accountability”. But does the new Agency live up to the claim? Apart from the complaints mechanism, the FR framework largely stays the same, and so does the general liability framework: The home Member State takes disciplinary action whereas the domestic laws of the host Member State determine criminal liability. It is also the host Member State incurring civil liability for the EBCG teams. The Agency itself incurs non-contractual liability according to the general principles of EU law (Article 340 (2) TFEU). There are no provisions determining which acts or effects of external border control are attributed to the Agency or to the Member States involved (a problem of multi-actor scenarios, where the 2011 ILC Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations might be of help). Following recent revelations on the frequent use of firearms in joint operations, MEPs wrote to Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri asking for more information and general guidance on responsibilities in certain operational scenarios. The ignorance displayed by Frontex’s designated watchdogs (see Article 7 of the Regulation) is further evidence for the need of more transparency and legal clarity in this regard.

Outlook

On the 6th of October 2016 the landscape of EU external border control did not change dramatically, but it did change. To repeat: No new agency has been founded, no EBCG under EU command and control was established, no right to intervene at Member States’ external borders against their will has been introduced. In fact and most notably, the Member States’ external border guard is placed under increased scrutiny of the EBCG Agency. Failure to comply with integrated border management standards could eventually lead to reintroducing internal border controls to the detriment of the disobedient Member State. At the same time, the Agency’s enhanced tasks and powers will go hand in hand with more responsibility and accountability, but the latter has yet to be improved. Although the complaints mechanism is a step in the right direction, its design could have been more effective. This holds true especially for the follow-up mechanism. In practice, much will depend on the Fundamental Rights officer’s assertiveness on the one hand, and the Executive Director’s responsiveness on the other hand.

After all, the distinguished guests to the celebrations at Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint last week did not witness birth or rebirth, but rather Frontex’s coming of age both in terms of leverage and responsibilities. Frontex, I wish you well indeed.

Dublin ‘reloaded’ or time for ambitious pragmatism?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON OMNIA WEBSITE (12/10/16)

(Click here  to hear Francesco Maiani’s (Swiss Member of the Odysseus Network) intervention at the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament on this issue – 4:10 – 22:20)

While the largely failed relocation scheme of 2015 is still in force, the European Commission has put forward a proposal for revising the Dublin III Regulation. Since comments have already been made in the blogosphere (see Hruschka on this blog and Gauci) and a comprehensive study on the need to reform the system has been recently released by a member of the Odysseus Network and presented to the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament (see Maiani), this entry will not provide a general description of the proposal and focus instead on some selected aspects by putting forward some proposals to make the Dublin system less dysfunctional.

A plea against taboos and ‘conservative’ options

Many EU documents repeatedly underline that the Dublin system is a “cornerstone” of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Indeed, taking into consideration Article 78(2) TFEU, there is a need to organise the distribution of responsibilities  since the competence for assessing claims and the  provision of protection lie with Member States.  Despite this, we should not let Dublin become a taboo, impermeable to discussions on its past and current contents. If the so-called ‘cornerstone’ is ill-conceived, the overall structure of the CEAS becomes unstable, unfair and ineffective.

Drawing from private international law terminology, we can say that the main objective of Dublin is to prevent positive and (most commonly) negative conflicts of jurisdiction, by rapidly determining a single responsible Member State (MS). Decades of legal thinking and state practice show that any set of rules (both domestic or international) allocating jurisdiction should be based on rational criteria and on a reasonable degree of connection (i.e. genuine link) between the competent State and the situation at stake. Although due consideration must be given to the fact that “asylum jurisdiction” is a peculiar field of law and that the interests at stake are specific to this area, decision makers must take into account the principles of rationality, fairness and compliance.

More than twenty years of implementation of the Dublin system (see Guild and othersHruschka and Maiani) showed that, as currently framed, Dublin simply does not work, both in normal periods and in times of crisis. Among other things, the fact that no reasonable room is given to consider asylum seekers’ preferences or their prospects for integration creates an evident trend against spontaneous compliance and towards secondary movements.

The deficient system generates high costs of different natures, such as:

(a) waste of public money in repressive actions and in administrative as well as judicial procedures not producing durable results;

(b) diplomatic tensions between Member States;

(c) profit-making for criminal networks providing smuggling services;

(d) social exclusion and frustration for asylum-seekers (potentially leading to human rights violations or various forms of criminality);

(e) lack of integration, with increased costs for social services and public expenditure.

Against this background, a fresh and innovative approach was expected when the EU institutions finally recognised in 2015 the need for a general overhaul of the Dublin III Regulation. However, the proposal that is now on the table does not envisage an overall reframing of the system, but a rather modest introduction of several corrections (some more significant than others) to a bad architecture that is not fundamentally questioned.

The criterion of the “Country of first entry” or “the irrational rationale

The first point of the proposal deserving severe critique regards the way in which the Commission treats the allocation criteria and, in particular, the insistence on the questionable criterion of the country of first entry. The explanatory memorandum of the proposal underlines that, according to some MS, the criterion of first entry must be preserved and that alternative connecting factors (such as personal preferences) would add confusion and give the wrong signal that asylum seekers can choose their country of final destination. In the meantime, it is acknowledged that other MSs and relevant stakeholders (for instance UNHCR, para. 6, at 7;  specialised NGOs such as ECRE and others) called for a different vision, focusing on the preferences or characteristics of asylum seekers (in  view of their speedy and satisfactory integration).

Yet, the explanatory memorandum merges the personal preferences and the characteristics of asylum seekers in the same concept, and uses the same rationale to discard both the ‘free choice’ approach and the ‘personal characteristics’ approach. To make my point clear, merely subjective preferences are different than objective personal characteristics (liable to increase prospects of integration in the host MS): while the ‘free choice’ approach may be swiftly questioned as a solution for allocating people (although it should not be summarily discarded, as recently advocated by Maiani, at 46-48), the verification of a reasonable connection with a country is a totally different issue. Even more surprisingly, the Commission seems to ignore the indications from other parts of EU secondary law. For instance, Recital No. 34 of Decision No. 2015/1601 (establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece) clearly states that:

“The integration of applicants in clear need of international protection into the host society is the cornerstone [sic] of a properly functioning CEAS”.

Following the same logic, the provision on the safe third country concept (defined in the Asylum Procedures Directive) underlines that the latter may be applied only if due regard is given to the existence of “a connection between the applicant and the third country concerned on the basis of which it would be reasonable for that person to go to that country” [Article 38(2)(a)].

This being said, let us try to follow the reasoning of the Commission. What is the rationale behind the first country of entry criterion? Commentators agree on the fact that the drafters of the Dublin Convention and of the subsequent Dublin II and III Regulations intended to establish a linkage between the allocation of responsibility in the field of asylum and the respect of MS obligations in the protection of the EU external borders (as confirmed by the same communicationof April 2016, at 7). Put in another way, if a MS  lets an asylum seeker enter its territory, then it would be logical (sic!) to establish responsibility for assessing the asylum claim and, if the outcome is positive, to define that MS as the new place of residence for the beneficiary of international protection.

However, it is well known that the principle of non-refoulement is applicable on entry regardless of the efficiency of checks at the external borders. Likewise, the combined effect of current EU visa policy, EU carrier sanctions regimes and the nature of flows to Europe unavoidably overburdens frontline States (the number and identity of which may change in time). Thus, we can question whether the above mentioned rationale is…. rational! Or whether it is in line with the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility recognised in Article 80 TFEU. Would it perhaps sound malicious to advance the idea that this criterion and especially its continued maintenance are simply the result of the (undeclared) will of some MS to put the responsibility and the related burden of international protection on other MS?

A “genuine link” approach: not a panacea, but surely deserving of further enquiry

With the aim to be constructive, this article puts forward another approach for giving more weight to objective links between an asylum seeker and a given MS, which would favour his or her speedy and efficient integration. A series of objectively verifiable elements connecting an applicant with a certain MS can be proposed in order to establish the relevant jurisdiction, according to a ‘genuine link’ approach (see also here for further elaboration on this methodological proposal and on its potential benefits both for MSs and asylum seekers):

  • Wider family links: The Commission proposes to broaden the scope of ‘family members’ so as to include siblings, which is a positive step. In additional to that, taking into account the presence of relatives in a MS deserves a more careful consideration. In many countries of origin, relatives are as important in family life as core family members, due to the cultural concept of family and related moral obligations of mutual assistance and care. Besides, in occasions where the original nuclear family may be dispersed or deceased, the only form of family life available to the asylum seeker may be represented by a cousin, an aunt, a nephew or a grandparent. It is clear that this widened concept of family might be seen as “too generous” by MS, but considering wider family links for Dublin purposes should be at least further discussed. Some categories of relatives could also be included in the alternative criteria of verified sponsors (see below);
  • Language skills: Some States whose official language is widely spoken outside of Europe (for instance, English or French) might fear to be penalised by this criterion. Nevertheless, it could pragmatically work even for indicating a MS where the population in general and civil servants in particular are usually fluent with a second language (for instance, English in some northern European countries). In any case, a saving clause would apply in case of numbers exceeding a reasonable quota (see below);
  • Previous study or work experience in a given MS, or other forms of regular stay: If compared with the lack of any relevant “contact” with a national community, a previous regular residence is usually able to create a potential for integration (unless it is ascertained that during that stay anti-social behaviour occurred);
  • Verified private sponsorship: Apart from relatives, private individuals – be they EU nationals or third country nationals (TCN) regularly residing in the EU – may have a strong and verifiable personal link to an asylum seeker. In a globalised world, with plenty of transnational activities and personal mobility, a person may act as a sponsor for a TCN, for instance due to previous professional or personal exchange developed during a stay in Europe or in third countries. A similar reasoning might apply to non-profit organisations or firms, subject to some eligibility criteria. In the different setting of legal avenues to reach the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency recently argued that private sponsorship is one of the most promising and under-exploited means (see here, at 6). Similarly, the Commission showed an interesting openness towards such an option (see theCommunication of April 2016, at 15-16). This possibility may cause some concern about possible risk of abuse, false declarations or coverage of illicit smuggling networks, but it should at least be the object of a serious and open minded discussion.
  • Existing legal tools facilitating the recognition of professional qualifications: The network of bilateral treaties already in force between MS and third countries of origin requires proper evaluation, because this could offer pragmatic solutions where the then protected person could easily play the role of an economic actor, instead of depending on social assistance.

One may question which of these factors is more suitable and which pre-requisites should be established to put them in place, but new paradigms need to be seriously explored in order to alter the current overall unsatisfactory performance of Dublin.

In the same vein, the quantitative impact of the proposed approach might be doubted. It must be acknowledged that no precise data are available and that no serious estimate may be done as to the impact of this proposal. Nevertheless, it is very likely that a large number of secondary movements is motivated by the intention to reach a country where some connections exist, so there is an evident normative need to set this empirical phenomena into a more credible legislative framework. The alternatives are to turn a blind eye (with no solution to the current problems to be expected) or to increase the sanctions regime for asylum seekers not complying with the current rules (a scenario that is even more debatable and problematic in the perspective of fundamental rights of asylum seekers: see  the post of Hruschka and the in-depth study of Maiani). By applying this new approach, some MS that are already under strain might become the responsible MS. To avoid undesired side effects, a saving clause might be connected to the overall system (see below).

Filters and corrections: the strange idea of treating persons as objects

As mentioned, the proposal does not change the main criteria for asserting jurisdiction, but it does introduce some novelties. Two of them seem particularly relevant here: the process at the early stages of the procedure (a kind of “pre-Dublin stage”) and the corrective mechanism, conceived as an evolution of the idea of a permanent scheme of relocation in times of emergency.

This pre-Dublin stage consists of a systematic assessment of the admissibility of the asylum claim, having regard to various deflective concepts (such a safe country of origin, first country of asylum, safe or ‘super safe’ third country, and a security screening of the applicant). These enquiries must be conducted by the first country of entry: only if the claim stands admissible, the enquiry into the Dublin criteria is carried out.

It must be observed that the two main actors (the asylum seeker and the national authorities) in this procedure are placed in a relationship of conflict: little chance seems to be left to the asylum seeker to actively participate in the procedure, and public officers are unavoidably perceived as hostile by him/her. This ‘applicant-unfriendly’ environment will not stimulate spontaneous compliance and full account of personal stories, thus generating systemic deficiencies.

The corrective mechanism is interesting, although in the current formulation is rather puzzling. A centralised system of registration of asylum claims will be put in place. Additionally, a reference key (composed of each MS’ GDP and population, each given 50% weighting) will determine which share of claims are assigned to each MS. The system will monitor in real time during the year the correspondence between the total number of asylum claims lodged in the EU and the division of them among the various MS. If a certain MS (MS#1) receives more than 150% of its assigned quota, then the corrective mechanism is automatically triggered. Additional asylum seekers will then be automatically assigned to other MS which are below their capacity (MS#2). If MS#2 refuses to take charge of an asylum seeker, a high amount has to be paid (€250,000 per person). The idea to impose a sanction (although the proposal uses a different vocabulary) on non-collaborative MS is not bad in principle, but it may be doubted that such an amount is proportionate.

Apart from that, what is really questionable is that the asylum seeker plays no role in this corrective procedure, and that the proposal does not indicate a method to identify MS#2. Maybe it is the MS which in that moment has the lowest performance of its assigned share? Or another MS? And in the latter case, will this be decided by a computer applying a casuistic algorithm? The proposal is incredibly ambiguous on this crucial point, and this “blind lottery approach” must be severely criticised. Again, people are treated as the object of procedures impinging on their lives: is all this human, rational and fair?

Finally, it must be taken into account that – even under the corrective mechanism – the overburdened State (MS#1) is, in any event, obliged to process the pre-Dublin stage and to conduct a dialogue with the assigned State regarding public security issues. To put it differently, there is no immediate relief for the overburdened State. Only after the person is moved to the automatically assigned MS#2, will this country verify the applicability of the Dublin criteria and then proceed with the subsequent steps (assessment of the claim or Dublin transfer to a MS#3). Thus, there is the possibility of a second mandatory movement: once again, is this rational? And cost-effective? And humane?

Time for ambitious pragmatism: Some ideas for EU policymakers

Drawing on the Commission proposal, it seems possible to improve some elements and reframe others. The purpose of the following suggestions is to reconcile the Dublin system with the authentic cornerstones of the CEAS (seeArticle 78(1) and also Article 80 of the TFEU) and with basic principles of rationality and fairness, both for MSs and applicants. To put it clearly, the proposal of the Commission is not all bad but it needs a robust correction.

Firstly, a permanent assessment of reception capacities (to be conducted through a reference key) and a centralised collection of all asylum claims (to be conducted as soon as possible) are highly needed. This idea of the proposal is good and should help to reduce instrumental and sterile political discussions. It is simply untenable that some MS must undergo a relevant pressure as frontline countries or as second-line favorite places of secondary movements while others give scarcely relevant support, or no support at all. It may be questioned which criteria should integrate the key and with which weight, but the overall idea is defensible.

Secondly, it is untenable to include a correction to an inherently bad system: the main standard criteria must be changed (in a similar vein, see Gauci). A primary role must be given to objectively verifiable preferences: after verification of admissibility of the claim (with full guarantees for the concerned applicant), an asylum seeker should be allocated to a given MS according to (wider) family links and other genuine links (see above). There would not be a simple or unqualified free choice of the applicant (as advocated by some NGOs): the applicant would be obliged to specify why a certain country is preferred and verification would be conducted by the interested MS.

It may be questioned if this solution would produce lengthy procedures or an excessive administrative burden on the first MS of entry. Well, this country is already obliged to conduct significant administrative activity under the pre-Dublin phase: a file is created, human resources are employed, time is spent on this activity and an interview is conducted. Is it so absurd to insert at such an early stage an ‘extra’ procedure aimed at showing a friendly face to the asylum seeker? One should also take into account that this extra procedure would be greatly facilitated by the asylum seeker’s cooperation, and that a different scenario would probably lead to a form of legal challenge by the asylum seeker, or his/her absconding. Would this be cost effective and desirable from a systematic point of view?

In this scenario, the asylum seeker would be asked to actively participate and to give clear indications regarding the presence of family members and of other connecting factors. In the case of several connected MSs (a circumstance which is not so probable), the choice could be left to the applicant.

In order to reassure MS whose asylum systems have undergone or are facing severe pressure (e.g. Germany or Sweden), if the competent State is already over its quota, the asylum seeker would be assigned to another (less) connected country, or only as extrema ratio to the State with the lowest performance rate of its share. In case of refusal of this MS to receive the concerned person, a proportionate financial disincentive should be established.

With the aim to reduce possible tensions coming from asylum seekers or from MS, a certain degree of freedom of movement of the beneficiary of protection should be accepted. If after recognition of refugee status or subsidiary protection by the designated MS, the person receives an effective job offer in another MS and security checks are fulfilled, the holder of international protection should have the possibility to accept this job offer, thus leading to a better allocation of the workforce. In this case, the issue should be raised as to whether, after voluntary establishment in another MS, protection duties should continue to bind the original MS or should be transferred to the second one, or whether such duties should simply cease.

Finally, a corrective emergency-mechanism should be conceived only for sudden and massive inflows and for supporting extremely precarious national asylum systems.

Do all these proposals look too innovative and unconventional? We all know perfectly what will happen if the Dublin system as it stands is maintained, or if only the limited ‘corrections’ set out in the Commission proposal are introduced. Should we wait for the next political crisis of the EU? Why not try to think of pragmatic and innovative way which could avoid tensions between MS, limit profits for smugglers as well as space for human rights abuses, avoid unnecessary sufferance, save public money and use human resources in a better way?

Continue reading “Dublin ‘reloaded’ or time for ambitious pragmatism?”

Meijers Committee on EU latest proposals on “Dublin”, Eurodac and European Asylum Agency.

ORIGINAL DOCUMENT ACCESSIBLE HERE

CM1609: Note on the proposed reforms of the Dublin Regulaton (COM (2016) 197), the Eurodac recast proposal (COM (2016) 272 fnal), and the proposal for an EU Asylum Agency (COM(2016)271 fnal)

Comments on the Dublin recast proposal

  1. General observatons

The Meijers Commitee would like to take this opportunity to comment on the proposed reform of the Dublin Regulaton, as set forth in the 6 April 2016 EC communicaton to the EP and Council (COM (2016) 197) and the 4 May 2016 proposal for a regulaton of the EP and Council establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an applicaton for internatonal protecton lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country natonal or a stateless person (recast) (COM (2016) 270). The later proposal will be further referred to here as Dublin III recast.

On page 4 of the 6 April 2016 communication, the Commission succinctly lists the shortcomings of the Dublin regulation: “difficulties in obtaining and agreeing on evidence proving a Member State’s responsibility for examining the asylum application, leading therefore to an increase in the number of rejections of requests to accept the transfer of applicants. Even where Member States accept transfer requests, only about a quarter of such cases result in effective transfers, and, after completion of a transfer, there are frequent cases of secondary movements back to the transferring Member State. The effectiveness of the system is further undermined by the current rules which provide for a shift of responsibility between Member States after a given time. […] A further impediment to the effective functioning of the Dublin system results from the difficulty in transferring applicants to Member States with systemic flaws in critical aspects of their asylum procedure or reception conditions. The effective suspension of Dublin transfers to Greece since 2011 has proved a particularly critical weakness in the system. […] The Common European Asylum System is also characterized by differing treatments of asylum seekers, including in terms of the length of asylum procedures or reception conditions across Member States, a situation which in turn encourages secondary movements.”

The Meijers Commitee wishes to add that Dublin’s ineffectiveness not only results from the difficulty of effectuating transfers but also from a general failure to initiate Dublin procedures, because asylum seekers have not been registered upon entering the EU. It is well known, not only that asylum seekers may seek to avoid registration, but that some Member States also disregard their obligation to register asylum seekers – some even on a large scale. It has been estimated, for example, that only half the persons entering Italy and applying for asylum somewhere in the EU were registered in that country1 In 2014, the proportion of physical Dublin transfers to the number of applicants for international protection in the EU was about 4 %, which suggests that Dublin is applied in far fewer cases than all those to which it is in fact applicable.2

To remedy these shortcomings, the Commission proposes two options: 1. Supplementing the present system with a corrective fairness mechanism, or 2. A new system for allocating asylum applications in the EU based on a distribution key. Because the second option would be difficult to envisage in the short or medium term, the Commission has chosen to pursue the first one.

The Meijers Commitee would frst of all like to point out that none of the shortcomings listed by the Commission will be remedied by the first opton, since it is essentally a contnuaton of the present Dublin system, which is demonstrably a failure. Why contnue with a broken system instead of fixing the shortcomings, even though this may not produce significant results in the short term? Additionally, the Meijers Committee points to the fact that the Dublin regulation was only very recently recast (19 July 2013), so this recast has been undertaken within 3 years of the entry into force of the last recast regulation, while that recast came 10 years after the entry into force of the Dublin II regulation.

The Meijers Commitee points out that at present there are two infringement procedures ongoing with regard to the Dublin regulation (in respect of Italy and Hungary), as well as four infringement procedures regarding the closely related Eurodac regulation (in respect of Croatia, Greece, Italy and Cyprus). Additionally, the Commission has recently sent a second supplementary letter to Greece expressing concerns over the persistence of serious deficiencies in the Greek asylum system, as well as a 10 February 2016 recommendation.

The belief that the Dublin system allocates responsibility unsustainability is widely held and is mentioned on page 3 of the explanatory memorandum to the Dublin III recast proposal. It is no coincidence that the infringement procedures mentoned above concern Member States on the EU’s external borders. These Member States have for a long tme complained that they cannot process the large numbers of asylum seekers entering the EU through their territories. While the suggested corrective fairness mechanism can go some way to remedy this situation, it will not change the fact that it is these Member States who will bear the brunt of new arrivals. The corrective fairness mechanism will not be triggered until a Member State has received 150% of the maximum allocated number of applications deemed fair on the basis of that State’s GDP and population size. This only partly corrects disproportionate burden sharing, without addressing the fundamental shortcomings of the Dublin system, namely that this system wrongly presupposes that the asylum procedures are adequate and up to standard in all Member States. On the contrary, Member States still continue to display systemic deficiencies, which make Dublin transfers impossible. As has been accepted by the ECtHR in several recent judgments, there are significant national differences in the quality of reception and asylum systems, which continue to exist and which encourage secondary movements.3 Additionally, the Commission must take stock of the fact that its similar attempt of September 2015 at such a mechanism has so far not been successful: of the 160,000 asylum-seekers who should have been relocated, only 1,500 (909 from Greece and 591 from Italy) have been relocated. The proposals under Dublin III recast do very little to address this unsustainable burden sharing, focusing instead on the risk of abuse of the rules laid down in the Dublin III regulation by individual asylum seekers, including their absconding.

  1. Detailed observatons

Continue reading “Meijers Committee on EU latest proposals on “Dublin”, Eurodac and European Asylum Agency.”

The Bratislava Declaration on migration: European irresponsibility instead of solidarity

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON OMNIA (Odysseus Network) SITE (27 Sep 2016)

By Phillippe De Bruycker (ULB/EUI) Evangelia (Lilian) Tsourdi (Max Weber Fellow, EUI)

The Bratislava Declaration refers on two occasions to “the principles of responsibility and solidarity”. The basic idea is to “broaden EU consensus” by devising a “long term migration policy” on the basis of the two principles.

At first look, this seems logical and even advisable. Since 2015, the EU has been unable to respond effectively to the ‘refugee crisis’. It is only the fragile ‘deal’ with Turkey that brought the illusion of a solution by externalising asylum provision to a third country. The EU remains profoundly divided about possible internal solutions. A European East-West divide has appeared, in addition to the well-known North-South division about the principles evoked in the Bratislava Declaration. Member States in the South have been complaining for years about the lack of solidarity measures, while many Member States in the Northwest have castigated them about their inability to implement their responsibilities. More recently, Member States in the Central/Eastern part of the EU (more precisely the Visegrad group consisting of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland) are refusing, ostensibly in the name of responsibility, to engage in the type of solidarity requested by no longer only the Member States in the South, but also those in the Northwest.

The objective to heal the wounds and reunify EU Member States around the same principles of solidarity and responsibility appears reasonable and even attractive in this setting. If all Member States (including those in the South) are fully responsible, the others (in particular those in the East) will demonstrate greater solidarity, so that the problem may be solved in a balanced way. This presentation based on an opposition between responsibility and solidarity is, however, simplistic and even incorrect from a legal point of view. If there is indeed in EU law a precise legal provision that can be considered to embody responsibility, applicable in the same manner throughout EU law, the same does not hold true for solidarity (1). Moreover, effective solidarity and fair sharing are a prerequisite to responsibility in EU migration and asylum policies, rather than the other way round  (2).

1. More responsibility than solidarity in EU law in general

When searching in the EU treaties for the word “responsibility”, Article 165(1) TFEU provides an excellent example of the kind of answer that appears: following this provision, “The Union shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting theresponsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity”.Responsibility refers in this sense simply to competence.

Responsibility understood as competence can be envisaged as a power as well as a duty. It is not so surprising that this notion has been linked in the case law of the Court of Justice with the principle of loyalty, now referred to as the principle of sincere co-operation under Article 4(3) TEU. The principle embodies, respectively, a positive obligation (taking measures to ensure fulfilment of obligations), and a negative obligation (abstaining from measures that could jeopardize this fulfilment). It is this first part that is often evoked by Member State governments; with ‘responsibility’ they refer to Member States’ duty to fulfil their obligations and honour their commitments under EU law.

Loyalty has been made explicit under Article 4(3) of the TEU. The principles of loyalty and solidarity are sometimes used interchangeably in legal scholarship, with loyalty considered a facet of solidarity. Under this understanding, the responsibility of Member States to implement their obligations under EU law is a sign of solidarity to each other. This is, however, a narrow understanding of solidarity, which is a notion different from responsibility.

When searching in EU treaties for the word ‘solidarity’, one finds, in particular since the Lisbon Treaty, more results than a similar search for ‘responsibility’. In some instances, solidarity fulfils an aspirational role, providing political orientation, rather than forming the basis of legally binding duties.  For example, following article 3(5) TEU, “In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall (…) contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples…”

However, in other areas solidarity forms the basis of concrete actions and legally binding duties as in article 222(1) TFEU, following which “The Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. The Union shall mobilise all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States, to:

(a)       – prevent the terrorist threat in the territory of the Member States;

– protect democratic institutions and the civilian population from any terrorist attack;

– assist a Member State in its territory, at the request of its political authorities, in the event of a terrorist attack;

(b)       assist a Member State in its territory, at the request of its political authorities, in the event of a natural or man-made disaster”.

These latter provision shows that solidarity is not linked with the fulfilment of responsibilities but rather with providing assistance to other Member States in order to allow them to implement their obligations.

Interestingly, solidarity understood in this sense does not have the same status as responsibility understood as loyalty. There is indeed no legal provision of solidarity applicable throughout different policies that would create a general duty to support, but rather different and more or less strong expressions of solidarity. As a consequence, one has to examine each particular policy and the provisions in the EU treaties pertaining to it in order to ascertain whether there are concrete solidarity duties and what the extent of these may be. This leads us to the meaning of solidarity in policies on border checks, asylum and immigration as governed by Articles 77 to 80 TFEU.

2. More solidarity than responsibility in EU migration and asylum policies

When searching for the word ‘responsibility’ or ‘responsible’ in those provisions, there are four hits. Firstly, Article 72 states that the EU competences regarding border checks, asylum and immigration do not affect the “responsibilitiesincumbent upon Member States with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguard of internal security” and, secondly, in Article 73, following which “it shall be open to Member States to organise between themselves and under their responsibility forms of cooperation and coordination as they deem appropriate between the competent departments of their administrationsresponsible for safeguarding national security”. Responsibility in those provisions refers to the notion of competence, i.e. that the Member States remain competent for the maintenance of law and order and internal security, and even exclusively competent for national security.

Another ‘hit’ is found in Article 78(2), requesting the European Union to adopt measures for a common European asylum system comprising, under point (e), “criteria and mechanisms for determining which Member State is responsible for considering an application for asylum or subsidiary protection”. This is the legal basis of the famous “Dublin System”, based on Regulation 604/2013, determining the responsible Member State for examining an application lodged in the EU. As the flaws of this system have already been analysed in numerous publications,including in this blog, it is not necessary to explain them once more.

Let us just remind ourselves that the origin of this regulation goes back to aConvention signed in Dublin on 15 June 1990 (this explains why specialists of EU asylum continue to speak about ‘Dublin’ in relation to this system). The aim of this system is to indicate which Member State is competent when an asylum application is introduced in the EU on the basis of a certain number of criteria. In practice, the responsible Member State will more often than not be the one of the legal or illegal first entry of the third-country national to the EU.

Responsibility in this regulation refers to the idea of competence regarding the examination of asylum applications, so that all Member States have to deal with the asylum applications for which they are responsible. The problem is that the Dublin system was not devised on the basis of solidarity. On the contrary, apart from exceptions based on the right to family unity, or the rights of the child, it is premised on the idea that each Member State should deal with the applications of asylum seekers whose presence is attributable to actions of that Member State. This could be either because it let them enter the EU voluntarily by issuing a visa or residence permit, or involuntarily by not controlling its external borders effectively. It is not a coincidence that the Dublin system was conceived by the North-Western Member States who drafted the Schengen Convention (France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) which is at the origin of the Dublin Convention. Solidarity was not an issue at that time in such a small and coherent space. Moreover, Dublin was devised in a purely intergovernmental framework, a decade before the beginning of the implementation of the supranational method with regard to asylum policy, as introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam, without any actor such as the European Commission looking out for the general interest rather than the national interest of each State. It is an excellent example of the kind of measure that Northern governments managed to impose on other Member States of the European Union, who can try to amend it subsequently, although only with the support of those governments, which explains why this has not been possible regarding the core of the system with the regulations Dublin II in 2003 and Dublin III in 2013.

This is crucial as this policy is, like the area of external borders, characterised by asymmetric burdens between the Member States due to the fate of geography. Following this logic, Greece should have examined all the asylum applications that could have been introduced by the hundreds of thousands of third-country nationals who entered the EU through its borders during the year 2015. It should also have intercepted the persons trying to enter the EU through the Greek borders without the requested documents (a passport with very often at least a short-term visa), as well as taken their fingerprints in order to store them inEurodac, a database helping to determine in practice the responsible Member State. In this particular case, it would mean that Greek authorities should have assumed responsibility of one million third-country nationals just because they entered the EU through the Greek territory.

Does it mean that the Southern Member States are legally wrong when they ask for solidarity from the other Member States, and that they should instead, or at least firstly, fulfil their responsibilities deriving from EU law? The answer is actually much more complicated due to Article 80 TFEU, which reads as follows:The policies of the Union set out in this Chapter and their implementation shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States. Whenever necessary, the Union acts adopted pursuant to this Chapter shall contain appropriate measures to give effect to this principle”.

This provision is one of those detailing the idea of solidarity in the policies for border checks, asylum and immigration. A quick reading may give the impression that this provision is precisely about two principles that have to be balanced, much like in the Bratislava Declaration. Under this reading, Member States should first fulfil their responsibilities by applying the Dublin Regulation and assuming responsibility for the asylum seekers arriving on their territory before they can expect solidarity. In the event of a failure to take up their responsibilities, they should not expect solidarity, or rather they should be found ‘undeserving’ of it.

However, this provision is about one and not two principles and, more importantly, about the principle of “solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility”.It is interesting to note that the words “fair sharing of” have simply been omitted from the Bratislava Declaration, while they completely change the meaning and content of what is at stake. Instead of an opposition between responsibility and solidarity that should be balanced against each other, the idea of fair sharing of responsibility actually reinforces that of solidarity. The policies of the Union on border checks, asylum and immigration are governed by the principle of solidarity, and responsibilities between the Member States in these areas must be shared in a fair way. If one will agree that fairness leaves some margin of discretion to the European Union, this notion refers to the ideas of equity and justice and thus provides an indication about how the EU policy on borders, immigration and asylum must be conceived and implemented.

It therefore appears that the legal obligation of the EU is not to balance the two principles of solidarity and responsibility, but rather to realise solidarity through a fair sharing of responsibilities. This means also that the concerned Member States should not be expected to implement Dublin as pre-condition for solidarity, but should instead benefit from a system aiming at a fair sharing of responsibility between all EU Member States. Some will say that Dublin is as such not contrary to EU law and that the system could be accompanied by “appropriate measures to give effect to the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility”, following the wording of Article 80 TFEU. The problem is that Dublin is the source of the asymmetric burdens between Member States, so that it seems difficult to amend or revise it without reversing the basic principle on which it is based.

Conclusion: responsibility or irresponsibility?

Nothing about this constitutional requirement is mentioned in the Bratislava Declaration. On the contrary, the issue of the relocation of asylum seekers, as a concrete solidarity measure at the core of the debate since 2015, has simply disappeared from the agenda, despite the call of the first summit of the Mediterranean countries of the EU organized in Athens on 9 September. This is the case despite the fact that the relocation measures were based on mandatory EU rules, which most Member States do not apply, while some of them openly challenge them, for instance Hungary through the organisation of a referendumcalling the population to vote against them.

What remains is a kind of “flexible solidarity”, following the words of the joint statement of the Heads of Governments of the V4 Countries (the Visegrad group) defined as a concept that “should enable Member State to decide on specific forms of contribution talking into account their experience and potential”, knowing that “any distribution mechanism should be voluntary”. Some observers have already tried to imagine what this could entail. This will become clearer when the Council of Ministers takes a position on the Commission proposal reforming the Dublin system (Dublin IV), which contains a relocation mechanism that appears ambitious but that would in fact be dysfunctional, as underlined by Francesco Maiani in his report for the European Parliament. The European legislator should keep in mind that, despite the discretion left by this provision, Article 80 TFEU requires a strong solidarity mechanism aiming at “fair sharing of responsibility” between the Member States.

The retreat of the EU regarding the issue of solidarity had actually been announced by the President of the Commission himself in his State of the Union speech, where he stated that “Solidarity must be given voluntarily. It must come from the heart. It cannot be forced”. This clearly contradicts the mandatory character of the relocation decision, which was imposed on 22 September 2015 by a qualified majority in the Council against the opposition of Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The Bratislava Declaration announces a double evolution. First, a so-called principle of responsibility is prioritised over the principle of solidarity and fair sharing, the latter reduced to a “commitment by a number of Member States to offer immediate assistance to strengthen the protection of Bulgaria’s border with Turkey and continue support to other frontline States”. Secondly, “the objective to ensure full control of external borders” is prioritised over the asylum policy, which is not even mentioned in the text.

The so-called “responsibility to ensure full border controls” is nothing else than a rhetoric contrary to the Treaties, ignoring that the Schengen Borders Code is without prejudice to the rights of asylum seekers (see in particular Articles 3 and 4 of Regulation 2016/399 codifying the Schengen Borders Code). Trying to convince public opinion that asylum seekers can simply be rejected at the border without any further examination of their claim is not only illegal but also populistic. This has proven to be impossible, even in the case of a safe third-country, for example Turkey on the basis of the EU/Turkey agreement of 18 March 2016 (see in this blog Henri Labayle’sThe EU-Turkey Agreement on migration and asylum: False pretences or a fool’s bargain?).

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk wrote in his letter of invitation to the Bratislava Summit that “Europeans all too often heard politically correct statements that Europe cannot become a fortress and that it must remain open”. This is indeed not the case of the Bratislava Declaration where the Heads of State and government want to improve the communication with citizens through the “use of clear and honest language (…) with strong courage to challenge simplistic solutions of extreme or populist political forces”. The problem is that they do exactly this by pretending to build a Fortress Europe, that is de jure impossible. They probably want to prove that this is possible de facto. This is nothing less than European irresponsibility instead of solidarity.

Solidarity beyond the state: towards a model of solidarity centred on the refugee

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON OPEN DEMOCRACY  (29 September, 2016)

 by VALSAMIS MITSILEGAS  (*)

The increase in the flows of asylum seekers towards the European Union in recent years has re-awakened the discussion over the meaning, extent and limits of the principle of solidarity in European asylum law.

In view of this politically sensitive and ongoing discussion, this contribution aims to assess the legal meaning of solidarity in the Common European Asylum System. I will attempt to demonstrate that the evolution and content of the principle of solidarity in both EU primary and secondary law is predominantly state-centred, with claims of solidarity being advanced primarily with states as reference points and as beneficiaries.

I will aim to demonstrate the limits of this state-centred approach to solidarity both in terms of ensuring effective protection of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and in terms of achieving an efficient and well-functioning European asylum system. I will advocate in this contribution a paradigm change: moving from a concept of state-centred solidarity to a concept of solidarity centred on the individual.

I will demonstrate how the application of the principle of mutual recognition in the field of positive asylum decisions can play a key part in achieving this paradigm change. I will argue in particular that positive mutual recognition- if accompanied by full equality and access to the labour market for refugees across the European Union- is key towards addressing the lack of effectiveness in the current system.

I will end this contribution by looking boldly in the future, and exploring how refugee-centred solidarity can be achieved by moving from a system of inter-state cooperation based on national asylum determination to a common, EU asylum procedure and status.

State-centred solidarity in European asylum law – a constitutional perspective

An examination of European constitutional law reveals a concept of asylum solidarity which is state-centred, securitised and exclusionary. (Mitsilegas 2014). The emphasis on state-centred state is confirmed by the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty on solidarity in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

According to Article 67(2) TFEU, the Union shall ensure the absence of internal border controls for persons and shall frame a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control, based on solidarity between Member States, which is fair towards third-country nationals. Article 80 TFEU further states that the policies of the Union on borders, asylum and immigration will be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States.

Solidarity is also securitised: as with other areas of European Union law, solidarity in European asylum law reflects a crisis mentality and has led to the concept being used with the aim of alleviating perceived urgent pressures on Member States. This view of solidarity as an emergency management tool is found elsewhere in the Treaty, in the solidarity clause established in Article 222 TFEU according to which the Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural man-made disaster.

The concept of solidarity here echoes the political construction of solidarity in European asylum law, in responding to perceived urgent threats. This view is confirmed by the growing trend towards the securitsation of migration and asylum in EU law and policy Placed within a state-centric and securitised framework, solidarity is also exclusionary.

The way in which the concept of solidarity has been presented in EU constitutional law leaves little, if any space for the application of the principle of solidarity beyond EU citizens or those ‘within’ the EU and its extension to third-country nationals or those on the outside.

One of the few provisions of the Treaty which may be seen as leaving the door open towards a more human-centred concept of solidarity, Article 2 TEU on the values of the European Union, states that these values are common to the Member States in a society in which…solidarity… [must]prevail. The inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in this concept of solidarity is unclear. Although asylum law is centred on assessing the protection needs of third-country nationals, and in this capacity they must constitute the primary ‘recipients’ of solidarity in European asylum law, the application of the principle of solidarity in this field appears thus to follow the exclusionary paradigm of solidarity in other fields of EU law where issues of distributive justice arise prominently.

Dublin as the embodiment of state-centred solidarity, and the failure of negative mutual recognition

Continue reading “Solidarity beyond the state: towards a model of solidarity centred on the refugee”

Frontières de l’Union : chronique d’une « recommandation » annoncée ou la flétrissure

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON GDR SITE

par Nuno Piçarra, Omnia, Université de Lisbonne

Le 12 mai 2016, le Conseil a adopté la décision d’exécution 2016/894 « arrêtant une recommandation relative à la réintroduction temporaire du contrôle aux frontières intérieures en cas de circonstances exceptionnelles mettant en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace Schengen » (ci-après, « décision d’exécution »). Celle-ci se base notamment sur l’article 29 du Code frontières Schengen (ci-après, « CFS ») qui prévoit une « procédure spécifique » tendant à la réintroduction d’un tel contrôle. C’est la première fois que cette procédure, ajoutée au CFS par le règlement n°1051/2013, trouve à s’appliquer.

1. La décision d’exécution 2016/894 du Conseil : recommandations et obligations pour les États Schengen concernés

Concrètement, le Conseil a recommandé qu’à partir du 12 mai 2016 et pendant une durée maximale de six mois, « des contrôles temporaires et proportionnés » soient maintenus (i) par l’Allemagne, à la frontière terrestre avec l’Autriche ; (ii) par l’Autriche, aux frontières terrestres avec la Hongrie et la Slovénie ; (iii) par le Danemark, dans les ports depuis lesquels sont assurées des liaisons par transbordeur vers l’Allemagne, et à la frontière terrestre avec l’Allemagne ; (iv) par la Suède, dans les ports situés dans les régions de police Sud et Ouest, et au pont de Öresund ; (v) par la Norvège, dans les ports depuis lesquels sont assurées des liaisons par transbordeur vers le Danemark, l’Allemagne et la Suède.

La Norvège n’étant pas un État membre de l’UE mais un « pays associé à l’application de l’acquis de Schengen », l’expression « États membres concernés » utilisée par la décision d’exécution, doit être entendue dans le sens de « États de l’espace Schengen » ou simplement « États Schengen ».

Au 12 mai 2016, les cinq États concernés effectuaient déjà des contrôles à leurs frontières intérieures en réponse, selon la décision d’exécution, « à une menace grave pour leur ordre public ou leur sécurité intérieure causée par les mouvements secondaires de migrants en situation irrégulière consécutifs aux défaillances graves dans les contrôles aux frontières extérieures. (…) ces mesures sont nécessaires et considérées comme proportionnées » (attendu 11).

Outre la recommandation de maintien du contrôle aux frontières intérieures identifiées, la décision d’exécution établit de vraies et propres obligations pour les cinq États concernés.

La première est, toutefois, d’exécution difficile voire impossible dans la mesure où, selon le texte qui l’établit, « avant de mettre en place de tels contrôles, les États membres concernés devraient procéder à des échanges de vues avec l’État (les États) membre(s) voisin(s) concerné(s) afin de s’assurer que ces contrôles ne sont effectués que sur les tronçons de la frontière intérieure où ils sont jugés nécessaires et proportionnés, conformément au code frontières Schengen ».

En fait, ce que la décision d’exécution recommande aux cinq États concernés est, non pas de « mettre en place », mais plutôt de « maintenir » des contrôles aux frontières intérieures qui ont été mis en place à partir de septembre 2015. Pour accomplir rigoureusement l’obligation dont il s’agit, il faudrait donc supprimer ou suspendre au préalable ces contrôles afin que l’« échange de vues » puisse avoir lieu avant leur mise en place. Ceci se heurterait, néanmoins, à un obstacle juridique supplémentaire : la décision d’exécution ayant été adoptée le 12 mai 2016 et devant s’appliquer à partir de cette même date, l’échange de vues préalable qu’elle impose ne sauraient s’effectuer en temps utile.

La deuxième obligation imposée aux États concernés est celle de notifier aux autres États Schengen, au Parlement européen et à la Commission « leur décision » de maintenir les contrôles recommandés. C’est, d’ailleurs, ce que prévoit l’article 29, paragraphe 2, quatrième alinéa, CFS. Toutefois, le même article prévoit également au paragraphe 3 que, « en cas de non application par un État membre de la recommandation visée au paragraphe 2, celui-ci en communique sans tarder les motifs par écrit à la Commission ».

Dès lors que la décision d’exécution reprend dans son texte la première disposition citée du CFS, elle aurait dû reprendre également la seconde, pour des raisons de cohérence et de complétude liées au principe de légalité. Et cela même si le Conseil était persuadé que, dans le cas d’espèce, aucun des États concernés ne se prévaudrait de la possibilité prévue par l’article 29, paragraphe 3, CFS pour refuser l’application de la recommandation.

Finalement, la décision d’exécution oblige chaque État concerné à « réexaminer régulièrement la nécessité, la fréquence, le lieu et la durée des contrôles, adapter ces derniers au niveau de la menace à laquelle ils visent à répondre, les supprimant progressivement s’il y a lieu (…) ». Il est ainsi rappelé que les critères fournis par les articles 26 et 30 CFS pour la prise d’une décision de réintroduction temporaire du contrôle aux frontières intérieures « sur tous les tronçons ou sur certains tronçons spécifiques » s’appliquent aussi en aval d’une telle décision.

2. La pratique de réintroduction, par les États Schengen concernés, du contrôle à leurs frontières intérieures avant la décision d’exécution

La date du 12 mai 2016 coïncide précisément avec celle à partir de laquelle l’Allemagne a cessé de pouvoir se prévaloir des dispositions du CFS qu’elle avait invoquées depuis le 13 septembre 2015 – et ce dans le contexte de la « crise des migrants et des réfugiés sans précédent » – pour réintroduire le contrôle à toutes ses frontières intérieures et en particulier à celle avec l’Autriche. L’exemple de l’Allemagne a été suivi trois jours plus tard par l’Autriche, le 12 novembre par la Suède, le 26 novembre par la Norvège et le 4 janvier 2016 para le Danemark.

Dans un premier temps, tous ces États se sont prévalus de l’actuel article 28 CFS, qui établit une procédure spécifique pour la réintroduction exceptionnelle et temporaire du contrôle aux frontières intérieures dans les cas nécessitant une action immédiate. Toutefois, en vertu du même article, la durée totale de cette réintroduction ne peut pas dépasser les deux mois.

Dans ces conditions, l’Allemagne le 14 novembre 2015, l’Autriche le 16 novembre suivant, la Suède le 9 janvier 2016, la Norvège le 15 janvier et le Danemark le 4 mars se sont prévalus des articles 25 à 27 CFS pour maintenir le contrôle à leurs frontières intérieures. Ces articles établissent les conditions et les limites à la réintroduction temporaire d’un tel contrôle en cas d’évènements prévisibles.

Le 23 octobre 2015, la Commission a émis un avis sur la nécessité et la proportionnalité du contrôle aux frontières intérieures réintroduit par l’Allemagne et l’Autriche ainsi que de ses prolongations. Ce contrôle a été considéré conforme au CFS. [C(2015) 7100]. Parmi les commentateurs, il a été relevé que l’avis de la Commission tend à assimiler le franchissement des frontières extérieures par un grand nombre de ressortissants de pays tiers à une menace pour l’ordre public et la sécurité intérieure, même si des preuves de risques liés à la criminalité organisée ou au terrorisme n’ont pas été apportées (voir Evelien Brouwer, « Migration flows and the reintroduction of internal border controls: assessing necessity and proportionality », 2015, et bibliographie y citée).

En vertu de l’article 25, paragraphe 4, CFS, la durée totale de la réintroduction du contrôle aux frontières intérieures en cas d’évènements prévisibles ne peut excéder six mois. Par conséquent, à partir du 12 mai 2016, l’Allemagne cesserait de pouvoir invoquer les articles 25 à 27 CFS pour maintenir le contrôle à ses frontières intérieures. Il en irait de même pour l’Autriche le 15 mai, pour la Suède le 9 juillet, pour la Norvège le 15 juillet et pour le Danemark le 4 août 2016.

Dans ces conditions, la seule possibilité légale pour les États concernés de maintenir le contrôle à leurs frontières intérieures est de le baser sur les articles 29-30 CFS. En effet, en vertu de ces dispositions, la durée totale de la réintroduction de ce contrôle peut être étendue à une durée maximale de deux ans (article 29, paragraphe 1, in fine).

3. L’autre État Schengen concerné par la décision d’exécution : la Grèce. Questions de légalité

La réintroduction ou le maintien du contrôle, par un État Schengen, à ses frontières intérieures conformément à l’article 29 CFS présuppose, outre une recommandation du Conseil sur une proposition de la Commission, l’imputation à un autre ou à d’autres États Schengen des « manquements graves persistants liés au contrôle aux frontières extérieures », à la suite d’une évaluation effectuée en application du règlement nº 1053/2013. Plus précisément, la première condition pour déclencher la procédure prévue à l’article 29 est la persistance de ces manquements, constatée par la Commission au terme d’un délai de trois mois à compter de la date à laquelle l’État Schengen concerné a fait rapport sur la mise en oeuvre de son «plan d’action destiné à remédier à tout manquement constaté dans le rapport d’évaluation ». Ce plan d’action, à son tour, doit être présenté dans un délai d’un mois à compter des recommandations concernant les mesures correctives des manquements en cause, adoptées par le Conseil sur une proposition de la Commission (article 21, paragraphe 3, CFS).

À cette première condition d’ordre simultanément substantiel et procédural, vient s’ajouter une deuxième, d’ordre substantiel : les « manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution du contrôle aux frontières extérieures» constatés par la Commission à l’égard d’un État Schengen doivent « mettre en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace sans contrôle aux frontières intérieures ». En d’autres mots, ils doivent représenter « une menace grave pour l’ordre public ou la sécurité intérieure » dans cet espace ou sur certains de ses tronçons. Par ailleurs, une telle menace doit s’avérer insusceptible d’être effectivement atténuée, soit par le déploiement d’équipes européennes de gardes-frontières aux frontières extérieures de l’État Schengen en cause, soit par la présentation à Frontex des plans stratégiques basés sur une évaluation des risques, soit par toute autre mesure.

Aux termes de l’article 29 CFS, la réintroduction du contrôle aux frontières intérieures ne peut être recommandée par le Conseil qu’« en dernier ressort et à titre de mesure de protection des intérêts communs au sein de l’espace sans contrôle aux frontières intérieures » face aux manquements graves constatés. Une telle réintroduction doit être évaluée au regard de son adéquation pour « remédier correctement à la menace pour l’ordre public ou pour la sécurité intérieure au sein d’un tel espace », ainsi que de sa proportionnalité. À cette fin il doit être tenu compte, notamment, de la disponibilité de mesures de soutien technique ou financier auxquelles il serait possible de recourir ou auxquelles il a été recouru au niveau national ou au niveau de l’Union, ou à ces deux niveaux, ainsi que de l’incidence probable de la réintroduction du contrôle sur la libre circulation des personnes au sein de l’espace Schengen (article 30, paragraphe 1).

Les conditions extrêmement restrictives pour l’application de cette procédure spécifique de réintroduction ou de maintien du contrôle aux frontières intérieures portent à croire qu’une telle procédure serait surtout destinée à jouer un rôle préventif d’avertissement aux États Schengen pour qu’ils prennent effectivement au sérieux leurs obligations communes de vérification et de surveillance à leurs frontières extérieures, en abandonnant toute pratique incompatible.

Quoi qu’il en soit, l’application de l’article 29 permet de vouer un État Schengen à l’ostracisme et à l’exclusion, jusqu’à deux ans, de l’espace sans contrôle aux frontières intérieures. Il suffit que le Conseil recommande à tous les autres États Schengen de réintroduire le contrôle à leurs frontières communes avec le premier et que tous ces États décident de suivre une telle recommandation. Celle-ci jouera en pratique le rôle de mesure réactive de type sanctionnateur (voir en ce sens Henri Labayle, « Schengen : un espace dans l’impasse », Revue Europe, 2016).

Il convient de rappeler, par ailleurs, que dans le cadre du contentieux franco-italien de 2011 (concernant la réintroduction par la France des contrôles à sa frontière commune avec l’Italie, suite à l’arrivée d’un grand nombre de migrants en provenance de la Tunisie au territoire italien), le Conseil européen du 23-24 juin 2011, secondé par la Commission [COM(2011) 561 final], a proposé l’introduction dans le CFS d’une « clause de sauvegarde » d’application tendanciellement automatique « afin d’autoriser, à titre exceptionnel, le rétablissement des contrôles aux frontières intérieures en cas de situation véritablement critique, lorsqu’un Etat membre n’est plus en mesure de respecter ses obligations au titre des règles Schengen », quelle qu’en soit la cause (voir « Internal border controls in the Schengen area: Is Schengen crisis-proof? » Study for the LIBE committee, 2016, p. 23-25).

Ce n’est donc qu’en faisant une inexplicable table rase soit du contenu que peut revêtir une recommandation du Conseil basée sur l’article 29 CFS, soit des travaux préparatoires concernant cette disposition, que la Commission peut affirmer qu’une telle mesure « n’est pas une sanction à l’encontre d’un ou de plusieurs États membres, pas plus qu’elle ne vise à exclure quelque État membre que se soit de l’espace Schengen », mais simplement « une mesure visant à préserver le fonctionnement global» de cet espace [COM (2016)120 final].

L’application pratique de l’article 29 devient d’autant plus problématique que celui-ci ne fait pas une distinction que la « crise des migrants et des réfugiés sans précédent », survenue au cours de 2015, a rendu indispensable et urgente. Il s’agit de la distinction entre, d’une part, les « manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution du contrôle aux frontières extérieures », susceptibles d’être évités à travers d’une « diligence moyenne » de la part de l’État Schengen concerné et, d’autre part, les manquements du même type qui sont manifestement hors du contrôle de cet État, en raison notamment de l’ampleur, de l’intensité et de la persistance de la pression migratoire à ses frontières extérieures maritimes et terrestres, ainsi que de l’insuffisance au moins provisoirement insurmontable des moyens humains et matériels pour leur faire face.

Cette dernière situation, frôlant le cas de force majeure, a été vécue par la Grèce surtout à partir de septembre 2015 et au moins jusqu’à « la mise en œuvre initiale de la déclaration UE-Turquie du 18 mars 2016 ». Ce n’est donc nullement par hasard que la Grèce est le sixième État Schengen concerné para la décision d’exécution. Celle-ci lui impute des manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution des contrôles à ses frontières extérieures, certains desquels persistent et mettent en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace Schengen.

À cet égard, la question essentielle de savoir si d’autres États Schengen ont pu manquer à leur devoir de solidarité vers la Grèce n’est même pas soulevée. La décision d’exécution se limite à relever que « du fait de sa situation géographique, la République hellénique est particulièrement touchée par [la crise des migrants et des réfugiés sans précédent] et a dû faire face à une augmentation spectaculaire du nombre de migrants arrivant sur les îles de la mer Égée », la zone la plus exposée (attendu 2). Le mot « spectaculaire » apparaît assez malheureux dans ce contexte. Le bon mot serait sans doute « incontrôlable ».

Cette critique d’ordre terminologique n’est sûrement pas la seule susceptible d’être adressée à la décision d’exécution, qui vise avant tout à légitimer, au regard du CFS, le maintien du contrôle, par les cinq États concernés, à leurs frontières intérieures au de-là du 12 mai 2016. Il convient surtout de vérifier si cette décision respecte intégralement les conditions prévues par l’article 29 CFS pour imputer en même temps à la Grèce des manquements graves persistants dans l’exécution du contrôle à ses frontières extérieures, représentant « une menace grave pour l’ordre public ou la sécurité intérieure» dans l’espace Schengen ou sur des tronçons de cet espace, qu’aucune autre mesure « ne peut effectivement atténuer ». Cette imputation constitue en effet une conditio sine qua non pour le maintien du contrôle aux frontières intérieures recommandé par le Conseil.

Or, c’est la décision d’exécution elle-même qui, dans son attendu 13, lance des doutes considérables à cet égard : « La République hellénique a accompli des progrès importants dans la correction de nombreux manquements que présente la gestion de ses frontières extérieures, constatés au cours de l’évaluation de novembre 2015. En outre, la mise en œuvre initiale de la déclaration UE-Turquie du 18 mars 2016 ainsi que les opérations en cours menées par Frontex et l’OTAN ont entraîné une diminution sensible du nombre de migrants en situation irrégulière et de demandeurs d’asile qui partent de la Turquie pour gagner la République hellénique. Cette réduction substantielle du flux de migrants en situation irrégulière et de demandeurs d’asile vers la République hellénique, ainsi que le soutien apporté par les agences de l’Union européenne et d’autres États membres dans les centres d’enregistrement, ont permis à la République hellénique d’améliorer sensiblement l’enregistrement des migrants en situation irrégulière et des demandeurs d’asile nouvellement arrivés » (italiques ajoutés).

Au vu de ces constatations – et si les mots employés par le Conseil ont un sens précis –, il n’est pas du tout évident que la conclusion puisse être celle qui est tirée à l’attendu 16 : « comme aucune autre mesure n’a pu effectivement atténuer la menace grave constatée, il s’ensuit que les conditions pour appliquer l’article 29 (…) en dernier recours sont remplies ». En effet, plusieurs mesures ont pu effectivement atténuer la dite « menace grave », même si, le cas échéant, elles ne l’auraient pas totalement éliminée. En tout état de cause, ce n’est pas cette dernière exigence que fait l’article 29, même si dans sa proposition de décision d’exécution [COM (2016) 275 final, p. 5] la Commission semble utiliser ces deux verbes comme synonymes.

Dans ce contexte, la décision d’exécution reproche encore à la Grèce le fait que la surveillance à sa frontière avec l’ancienne République yougoslave de Macédoine « n’est actuellement pas totalement conforme au code frontières Schengen » (attendu 14). Comment pourrait-elle l’être dans l’immédiat si ce pays tiers a carrément fermé cette frontière commune avec la Grèce pour des périodes considérables, en bloquant sur le territoire grec les migrants et requérants de protection internationale désireux de la franchir ?

Toujours selon la décision d’exécution, « Cette situation accroît le risque de mouvements secondaires de migrants vers d’autres États membres ». Toutefois, pour que « le risque persistant de mouvements secondaires de migrants en situation irrégulière » (que la décision d’exécution ne cherche même pas à démontrer,) puisse légitimer le maintien du contrôle aux frontières intérieures en cause, il faudrait également examiner au préalable, au regard du principe de proportionnalité. son « incidence probable » sur la libre circulation des personnes au sein de l’espace Schengen [article 30, paragraphe 1, lettre c), CFS]. C’est un exercice que la décision en cause a manifestement omis de faire, dans la mesure où elle a accepté sans plus les justifications fournies par les cinq États destinataires de la recommandation.

Par ailleurs, pour ce qui est de la légalité procédurale de la décision d’exécution, il semble également critiquable qu’elle ait été adoptée avant l’expiration du délai de trois mois prévu par l’article 16, paragraphe 4, du règlement nº 1053/2013 pour que, à la suite des recommandations de mesures correctives adoptées par le Conseil le 12 février 2016, la Grèce rende compte de la mise en oeuvre de son plan d’action. Ce délai expirerai précisément le 12 mai 2016. Toutefois, dès lors que la Grèce avait fait ce compte-rendu le 26 avril, la Commission a estimé qu’elle « ne devrait pas attendre l’expiration du délai de trois mois pour évaluer si, au 12 mai 2016, la situation persistera (…) ». Le 4 mai elle a présenté sa proposition de « recommandation annoncée » au Conseil.

Ces anticipations ne semblent pourtant pas compatibles au moins avec l’esprit de l’article 29 CFS – qui exige que l’État Schengen dont le contrôle à ses frontières extérieures a été considéré gravement défaillant puisse avoir une opportunité effective d’essayer de résoudre tous les problèmes jusqu’à l’expiration des délais prévus à cette fin (voir dans ce sens Steve Peers, EU Justice and Home Affairs Law, Volume I, Oxford : OUP, 2016, p. 113).

Il est certes vrai que, nonobstant la menace grave et nullement atténuée imputée illégalement à la Grèce, la décision d’exécution n’a pas recommandé aux cinq États concernés de réintroduire le contrôle à leurs frontières communes avec la Grèce, lesquelles ne comprennent pas des frontières terrestres. Cette décision ignore ainsi la relation directe établie, bien ou mal, par l’article 29 entre défaillances qualifiées dans les contrôles aux frontières extérieures d’un État Schengen et réintroduction/maintien, par d’autres, du contrôle aux frontières intérieures avec premier.

Il ne s’ensuit cependant pas que, dans cette mesure, la décision d’exécution doive être considérée aussi illégale. En effet, l’article 29 ne semble pas exiger que, en cas de constatation de manquements graves liés au contrôle des frontières extérieures, mettant en péril le fonctionnement global de l’espace Schengen, la réintroduction du contrôle aux frontières intérieures qui peut en découler, le cas échéant, doive comprendre forcément l’État qui a fait l’objet d’une telle constatation.

Quoi qu’il en soit, même si dans le cas d’espèce la Grèce n’a pas été exactement suspendue de l’espace Schengen voire vouée à l’ostracisme, il n’en reste pas moins qu’en passant, la décision d’exécution produit sur elle l’effet d’une flétrissure, avec tout ce que cela implique du point de vue de la confiance mutuelle, sans laquelle l’espace Schengen ne peut pas subsister.

Est cela le signe d’un temps où, s’agissant de la refondation de l’Union européenne souhaitée par certains, la Grèce ainsi que d’autres États membres n’auront pas de place en pied d’égalité, et la Commission, au lieu de maintenir son rôle essentiel de « gardienne des traités », assumera le rôle d’adjoint d’un Conseil « directorial » ? Ou (et) s’agit-t-il d’un signe d’un temps où l’Union européenne se permet déjà de traiter plus sévèrement les États membres dont les gouvernements ne reflètent pas intégralement des partis ouverts aux « grandes coalitions », au sens germanique de l’expression ?

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WORTH READING : the final text of the EUROPEAN BORDER AND COAST GUARD REGULATION

The text below is the final version of the EU Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard as revised by the Jurist Linguists of the EU institutions. Formally adopted this week as a “corrigendum” by the European Parliament and by written procedure by the Council it will be published on the Official Journal in the coming weeks. Presented, negotiated and adopted in extremely short time ([1]) under the pressure of the European Council the new EU Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard could be seen at the same time a main evolutionary step and a revolutionary one in the relation between the EU and its Member States in the freedom security and justice area. 

Even if the main subject of the text is the border management it covers also directly and indirectly other EU policies such as refugee law, international protection, migration and even internal and external security. Not surprisingly  such an ambitious objective was difficult if not impossible to achieve in such a short time and several commentators and representatives of the civil society have already considered (see Peers , Carrera [1], Rijpma [2], and, more recently, De Bruycker [3])  that the text on one side does not deliver what it announces and on the other side is still rooted in an old intergovernamental model. Maybe from a legistic point of view instead of bringing all these objectives in a single legislative text it would had been more elegant to focus its content only on the organisational and operational aspect of the “new” Frontex  and deal with the general framework of the integrated EU border management in the Schengen Border Code where general rules on the definition, negotiation adoption and implementation would had been better placed together with the rules on its evaluation and on the adoption of extraordinary measures in case of emergency. However these have probably been considered by the Commission legal niceties to be dealt with in times with less political pressure.. 

With so many objectives it is not surprising that the final result is far from the expectations and the text is somewhere still elusive and somewhere too detailed. It can then be interesting to  compare the negotiation position of the three institutions as it result from a very interesting Multicolumn document leaked by Statewatch during the “confidential” legislative trilogies. It shows that the European Parliament has tried to improve the original Commission proposal and has obtained some concessions from the Council but regrettably, it had lost the main targets such as the definition in codecision of the European Border Strategy (instead of a simple decision of the Agency’s Management Board) and even on the procedure to appoint of the Agency Director where its position will be to express an opinion …which can be disregarded.

Further comments will follow. EDC

 

[1] See the CEPS study of Sergio Carrera and Leonhard den Hertog “A European Border and Coast Guard: What’s in a name?”

[2] See Jorrit RIJPMA study for the Civil Liberties Committee of the EP “The proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard: evolution or revolution in external border management?”

[3] See Philippe DE BRUYCKER “The European Border and Coast Guard: A New Model Built on an Old Logic

 

It is the latest (and quite likely not the last) of a chain of legal texts by which the EU has tried in the recent years to legally frame the issue of human mobility and human security in the EU by taking in account the new legal framework after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and of the EU Charter of fundamental rights.

[1] A rather detailed and updated collection of the legislative preparatory works can be found here :  https://free-group.eu/2016/06/10/wiki-lex-the-new-eu-border-guard-proposal/

[2] As as verified by the Jurist Linguist and endorsed by the EP according to art 231 of its Rules of procedure)

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REGULATION (EU) 2016/…OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of … on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Articles 77(2)(b) and (d) and Article 79(2)(c) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,

After transmission of the draft legislative act to the national parliaments,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee1,

Acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure2,

Whereas: Continue reading “WORTH READING : the final text of the EUROPEAN BORDER AND COAST GUARD REGULATION”