On 11 November, the Commission put forward a proposal on the establishment of a Border Management Agency which should be operational in 2005.
On 11 November, the Commission presented a proposal to set up an Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders. The proposed agency would co-ordinate the monitoring of land, air and sea borders between Member States.
The proposal to create an agency comes in response to calls by Spain and Italy for more co-ordination and co-operation in this field - the two Mediterranean countries are particularly concerned by the flood of illegal immigrants arriving from North Africa. In addition, the thinking is that it would help the eight eastern European countries (who will become the Union's frontline in May 2004) to improve border controls.
If the agency is given the go-ahead as expected, it will be a co-ordinating body and with no influence on policy-making. It is designed primarily to help Member States to train their national border guards and carry out risk assessments but will also co-ordinate EU-wide co-operation as regards the removal of third-country nationals illegally residing in Member States.
Howerver, due to the reluctance of Member States to transfer law enforcement powers to the EU and to create a common EU border police corps, the staff of the agency will not be able to carry out physical checks at the external borders.
The agency, which is expected to be up and running by the beginning of 2005, will have limited resources: a staff of about 30 persons and a budget of 6 million euro in 2005 and 10 million euro in 2006.