Frontex budget frozen until fundamental rights monitors are employed

MEPs have frozen 12% of Frontex’s budget for 2022 until the agency remedies shortcomings

MEPs have frozen part of next year’s budget for the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontext, after granting discharge of its 2019 budget by 558 votes in favour.

MEPs asked for part of the Frontex 2022 budget to be frozen and only made available once the agency remedies shortcomings identified in a first discharge report back in spring.

This includes recruiting 20 missing fundamental rights monitors and three deputy executive directors who must be sufficiently qualified to fill these positions, setting up a mechanism for reporting serious incidents on the EU’s external borders and a functioning fundamental rights monitoring system .

In a vote on their position on the 2022 EU budget, MEPs placed in reserve €90 million of Frontex’s €757 million budget.

The long-awaited decision comes in the wake of recurring controversies surrounding Frontex, concerning human rights abuses, corruption or structural deficiencies in the agency’s management. Currently OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, is still investigating the agency.

Earlier this year, in April, the European Parliament postponed the decision for the 2019 discharge of the agency’s budget, calling for further clarifications on how Frontex runs such operations and manages its finances as well as other procedures.

Despite the agency being the target of accusations from many organisations across the European Union for involvement in unlawful actions, all of these allegations have been denied by Frontex.

Addressing the House on Thursday, Joachim Stanislaw Brudziński (ECR) said: “I think we can accept all the efforts by the agency concerning its documents… we are still calling on the agency to continue its activity when it comes to making docs available to all… There was no sign of mismanagement of finances or infringement of fundamental rights or not carrying out obligations… The working group did not find any conclusive evidence on Frontex carrying out pushbacks… The Ombudsman decided there is not enough evidence to consider the case.”

The European Commissioner for migration, Ylva Johansson, said that Frontex fulfilled an important task. “We have seen increased threats at our external borders due to Belarus ruler Aleksander Lukashenko’s aggression,” she said, describing the situation as an unfolding humanitarian emergency, while welcoming continued scrutiny of Frontex and its activities.

Johansson said continued evaluation was the best way to ensure Frontex would remain a “robust and well functioning agency”.

In contrast, Green MEP Bas Eickhout remained unconvinced and called on the House not to approve the 2019 expenditure until the OLAF investigation was concluded, citing “significant shortcomings in the governance of the institution”.

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