08 Mar 2016

A European Border and Coast Guard: What’s in a name?

Sergio Carrera / Leonhard den Hertog

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This paper assesses the Commission’s proposal presented in December 2015 to set up a European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), based on the responses made by the EU border agency Frontex to the ‘refugee crisis’ that began in 2015 and continues unabated. It explores the extent to which this proposed new body will be capable of remedying the EU’s shortcomings in meeting established border and asylum standards and related institutional needs on the ground and concludes that it is unlikely to do so. The paper argues that the EBCG proposal does not establish a true European Border and Coast Guard. Instead it would revamp Frontex into a Frontex + Agency. The EBCG would expand the current logic of national border guards to be committed to the Frontex Agency ‘pools’ and therefore does not solve the ‘dependency’ of Frontex on member states. More importantly, the EBCG would do too little to ensure that member states comply with EU border and asylum standards, which has constituted the central deficiency throughout 2015 and earlier. We find that it will also fall short of establishing a professional culture in border control cooperation to be shared across the Union. Revamping and relabelling Frontex will create expectations that will be difficult to fulfil if compliance with EU border, reception, and asylum standards remains weak on the ground. The paper calls on the EU to give higher priority to policies dealing with the structural compliance with EU border and asylum standards by all member states, moving beyond the EU Dublin system and including an enlarged role for the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at CEPS and Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the University of Maastricht. Leonhard den Hertog is TRANSMIC postdoctoral researcher at the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at CEPS.