New EU border force and coast guard planned

Security measures part of European Commission’s package to tackle migration crisis

The European Commission will unveil plans for a common EU border force today, as part of a wide-ranging package designed to tackle the ongoing migration crisis that has seen more than a million refugees enter the EU this year.

Ahead of this week's leaders' summit on Thursday and Friday, the commission is publishing a long-awaited migration package, which is expected to contain details of a new European border force and coast guard and an update on a voluntary resettlement programme for Turkey.

The EU currently operates Frontex, a border agency established a decade ago, but the agency has been revealed to be vastly inadequate to cope with the hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving to the EU by sea.

Under the proposal expected to be announced today, Frontex will be folded in to the new agency, which will have a vastly expanded staff and budget. Stand-by personnel would also be deployed from member states in emergency situations.


‘Play its part’

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Charlie Flanagan

said he would expect


to “play its part” in any new initiative. Though Ireland is technically not a member of Frontex, it can choose to contribute personnel if requested to do so, and has already agreed to send two members of An

Garda Síochána

to participate in Frontex initiatives.

The proposal for a new European coast guard, though backed by large member states such as Germany, France and Italy, is controversial, as it is perceived by some countries as an intrusion by Brussels into matters of national sovereignty.

Among the most contentious issues is the question of which authority would have the power to trigger the deployment of border forces, with some member states reluctant to give the European Commission the authority to send extra staff to police their borders.

Take responsibility

Speaking in advance of the publication of the migration strategy,

Manfred Weber

, the head of the centre-right European People’s Party, said the EU should be able to take over responsibility for sections of its borders if a member state is unable to control its external borders.

"Drastically strengthening EU external border controls and guaranteeing safe borders are preliminary conditions to make it possible for EU member states to get the refugee crisis under control. Not every migrant who comes to Europe can actually stay in Europe."

His comments follow recent criticism of Greece's handling of the refugee crisis and the country's initial reluctance to accept EU help to patrol its borders. The Greek government has defended its handling of the crisis, arguing that Frontex is already assisting Greece in identifying and registering migrants on the Aegean islands.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent