The concept of the European border agency Frontex will officially change today, in Bulgaria. In the village Kapitan Andreevo, which is located at both the border to Turkey and the one to Greece, European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov will symbolically start “Frontex Reloaded”, “Frontex 2.0”, or whatever the new approach could be called. The event will take place this morning.
Within the European Union, Commissioner Avramopoulos is responsible for improving border control, for migration and for fighting radicalization and human trafficking. Frontex will keep its headquarters in Warsaw, but the focus of its work and its area of operation will switch from the Mediterranean to Bulgaria’s southern border.
The new Frontex will have a reserve of 1500 border guards, who can be sent to the outer borders of the E.U. quickly, in case of crises.
According to the new mandate, E.U. member states can be forced to help securing borders, should that become necessary. Frontex will also be involved in organizing deportations, and in securing borders in third countries, not belonging to the E.U., in order to help resolve situations which could have an effect on the European borders.
Bulgaria has been demanding more help in securing its southern border. Approximately 210 Frontex officers are already in the country, in order to help the Bulgarian Border Police. The latter is being struck by corruption scandals on a regular basis, which have negative effects of the border protection as well.
In Western Europe, conservative politicians have applauded the new approach. “The E.U. has made a lot of headway, with its new border and coastal protection”, the European MP Manfred Weber said, who is part of Bavaria’s ultra-conservative party CSU. “Frontex may now operate in the problematic areas we have, and secure border stretches, which have been insecure so far”, Weber stated.
Comments from the left were far more critical. The Green Party at the European Parliament criticized the move, saying the new mandate meant less protection for human rights, especially when it came to deportations and cooperation with third countries. The Green Party MP Ska Keller said: “When a country does not deport people, according to the European quota, then Frontex will become active and tell that country to deport more refugees, or the agency can deport asylum seekers itself”, she complained.
The new mandate for Frontex shows that border protection is increasingly a European task, rather than a national one.