Commission to table EU external border proposal by September

EU commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, during a press statement in Vienna, in the context of the visit of the College of Commissioners on the launch of the Austrian presidency of the EU. [Florian Wieser/ EPA]

The Commission will translate the Council’s demands into a set of concrete actions in order to improve control of the EU external borders, Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Friday (6 July) during the visit of the College of Commissioners to Vienna.

The EU executive will present its proposal in September to increase European coastguards up to 10,000 by 2020 – ahead of the previous date of 2027. The Commission will also prose extending Frontex’s mandate in order to create a real EU border police.

“We cannot be at the mercy of a few Frontex ships and understaffed coastguards from member states at the front line,” EU sources warned.

This European border police will work in EU territorial waters in the Mediterranean. But it still needs to be clarified what will happen to those who would still manage to cross the maritime border.

“Europe will never do push backs. It is illegal,” EU sources stressed. However, as stated in the June Council conclusions, the Commission will work towards the installation of disembarkation platforms in third countries, which would seem very much alike.

The bases of the proposal were already tabled by the Commission as part of the new EU long-term budget, but will be clarified in the coming months. “Budgets are future concepts expressed in monetary terms,” Juncker stated.

After years of discussion about migration policy, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at a briefing yesterday (6 July), “it is important that we have a common goal.” That common goal is to increase the protection of the external border of the EU as to reduce irregular migration.

“There is a convergence of opinions from all schools of thoughts, from all sensitivities of the EU migration policy that the EU external border will have to protected, it will have to be policed,” EU sources pointed out.

“A Europe without internal borders will only be possible if there are functional external borders,” Kurz told the press in Vienna.

Kurz pledges to shield Schengen as border dispute unfolds

Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz prioritised the protection of the external borders during his country’s EU Presidency stint, in order to safeguard the Schengen area, as a recent deal between Germany’s conservative parties could lead to a resurrection of the bloc’s internal borders.

The focus on external borders with a pending review of the Dublin system, which has been blocked for years, has been criticised by many.

But Juncker refused to endorse the so-called ‘fortress Europe’ concept. “Solidarity and protection of the external border are two things that go together,” the Commission boss said.

Although Kurz remained committed to working on the reform of the system, he is aware it will not be easy. “I cannot make any promises that that I cannot keep,” the chancellor highlighted.

“If you cannot reach compromises you should maybe agree on the Commission proposal,” Juncker suggested.

Juncker’s harmony with the Austrian government

Juncker is in agreement with Kurz on many points and gave the chancellor his backing again after the working session between the Austrian government and the College of Commissioners in Vienna.

“We are clearly moving in the same direction,” the president said.

“The presidency motto, the Europe that protects, I think is genuinely in line with the motto of my presentation to the European Parliament back in 2014,” he said, adding “it is not just a set of words, it is something we have to express in concrete terms.”

Juncker said that both cabinets will meet often over the next few months to work together to achieve the presidency’s goals.

“It is important for us as the Austrian government to have good interplay with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission,” Chancellor Kurz confirmed.


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