Towards a European border police force?
At a time when country borders are unstable, the European Union boosts its Frontex program to secure its external borders.
- Thursday, 30 June 2016
Frontex, the European agency for the management of joint operations on the Union’s external borders, was established in late 2004 and has now logged more than a decade of service. The agency is entering a period that will be crucial for determining its future. The migration crisis that has shaken the European Union and even managed to rattle the most symbolic pillar of the integration process, the concept of free movement, has been caused primarily by the Union’s inability to control its external borders. Frontex, some claim, has been incapable of performing the task for which it was created and has proven powerless to prevent the continuous flow of migrants. Such is the agency’s impotence that in autumn 2015, during one of the most acute phases of the crisis, Frontex was not even capable of obtaining the material support necessary to upgrade its activities in the central and eastern Mediterranean, receiving only 447 agents of a total of 775 it had requested from the EU member states.
Behind this controversy, however, lies a misunderstanding. Frontex is often mistaken for a fully-fledged police corps, but in reality its mandate is to serve as a coordination agency. In short, there is no European police force, nor can there be. European Union treaties clearly underline that the functions of safeguarding national security and public order are the exclusive prerogative of the member states themselves. The exercise of coercive force and, consequently, the creation of a security apparatus is a sovereign function that nation states guard jealously. At the very most, when it comes to such a delicate issue, the member states have been willing to permit some form of coordination and cooperation.