Brussels pushes for EU coastguard-borders agency
ROME - Agence France-Presse
Members of the Frontex, European Border Protection Agency, from Portugal, hold a child at the port of Molyvos after a rescue operation near the Greek island of Lesbos, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. AP PhotoThe European Commission has drawn up proposals to create a 1,000-strong EU borders and coastguard agency to help secure the bloc's external borders in reaction to the migrant crisis, a top official said on Dec. 11.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner in charge of migration policy, told a Mediterranean security conference in Rome that national authorities had been overwhelmed by the unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers and other migrants arriving in Europe, creating the need for a pan-European solution.
"National authorities manage to do their best but they were not prepared for that (the surge in refugee numbers)," Avramopoulos said. "We need something more comprehensive and better structured."
The commissioner said the proposed new agency's tasks would include defending and protecting EU borders, providing migrants with support and carrying out search and rescue operations. It would have a staff of around 1,000 people and would be authorised to intervene whenever national authorities could not, he added.
The agency would work closely with planned European reception centres, or 'hotspots', to be established in Greece and southern Italy to ensure more comprehensive identification, registration and processing of new arrivals in Europe, the commissioner added.
"Nobody would ever come into EU territory without accepting to respect the rules of our union," he said.
The ease with which migrants can get into Europe without being identified has become a hot button issue in the wake of last month's Paris attacks following reports two of the attackers passed through Greece posing as refugees.
Brussels has initiated infringement proceedings against Greece and Italy -- where the bulk of refugees arrive -- over their failure to comply with EU rules which require them to fingerprint every migrant entering the bloc via their territory.
The proposal for a new agency is likely to encounter opposition from member states opposed to any extension of the bloc's institutions and powers and will require approval by the European Parliament as well as national governments.
"It is up to the Council (of Ministers) to make the decision," Avramopolous added. "We think we have to take the step forward of having more Europe to solve this problem.
"Member states cannot do it alone. We need to have more instruments in our hand and this will be one more instrument at our disposal.
"We need it. We have found out that we are in real need of having this agency up and running as soon as possible and on the ground."
The commissioner said the idea would be discussed by the European Parliament next week.