EU to launch controversial new border force plan
The EU was set to unveil on Tuesday controversial proposals for a new border and coastguard agency in response to Europe's migration crisis, with powers to intervene even when the host country does not consent.
The new 1,000-strong force is aimed at slowing the record flow of nearly one million refugees and migrants to Europe this year, mainly from the war in Syria, in what is the worst crisis of its kind since World War II.
But some member states in the 28-nation European Union are hostile to a plan that could see them cede sovereignty over their own land and sea borders to bureaucrats in Brussels.
The European Commission, the powerful executive arm of the EU, will propose that the new agency has the "right to intervene" to protect the security of the EU's passport-free Schengen area.
"In urgent situations, the agency must be able to step in to ensure that action is taken on the ground even where there is no request for assistance from the member state concerned or where that member state considers that there is no need for additional intervention," said a draft of its proposal obtained by AFP.
The EU could send in teams of guards in case of a surge at a particular border, or where a member state has a "deficiency" in the management of its borders and had failed to respond to warnings from Brussels, it said.
- 'Step in right direction' -
European Parliament President Martin Schulz hailed the plan, which will be unveiled before MEPs in Strasbourg later Tuesday, saying the EU had to be able to step in when member states could not meet their responsibilities.
"That the EU creates common instruments to help and intervene, that is completely normal. The European Commission's proposals due this afternoon are a step in the right direction," Schulz told AFP in an interview.
Germany and other countries in the zone have in the last few weeks reintroduced temporary border controls to cope with the migrant crisis.
The fear is that if those controls become permanent, the 26-country Schengen zone that ensures the EU's core principle of freedom of movement, would collapse, taking the idea of a single, united Europe with it.
The new border guard system will replace the EU's largely toothless Frontex agency, which has failed to tackle the flows of people on routes including Turkey to Greece and through the western Balkans, mainly because of a lack of manpower from member states.
The European Commission has said it is "confident" its plan will be adopted by EU leaders who are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
But the plan faces being severely watered down by EU member states and the European Parliament before the agency comes into effect.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Monday that the replacement of Warsaw-based Frontex "by a structure that is independent of member states is shocking".
- Refugee rights -
Rights group Amnesty International said that the EU border guard plan "must not be at the expense of migrant and refugee rights".
The new border guard system is just one part of the EU's multi-pronged strategy aimed at stemming the unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants seeking a new life in Europe.
Many of the other measures are struggling to have an effect.
A controversial plan to relocate refugees around the EU to relieve the pressure on frontline states like Greece and Italy has so far shared out only a few hundred out of a planned total of 160,000.
The EU has meanwhile been accused of pandering to Turkey despite concerns over human rights, signing a three billion euro ($3.2 billion) aid deal and agreeing to relaunch Turkey's EU membership process.
Brussels is also weighing up plans to resettle 50,000 refugees directly from Turkey.
In exchange Turkey, which is home to more than two million Syrian refugees, agreed to try to limit numbers travelling to Europe and tackle human smugglers who profit from their desperate journeys.
© 2015 AFP