Federal Council initiates consultation on extended European border and coast guard

Keywords: Schengen/Dublin

Press Release, The Federal Council, 13.12.2019

During its meeting on 13 December 2019, the Federal Council initiated the consultation on the adoption and implementation of the revised EU regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) will thus be given a more robust mandate to work with the national authorities to better protect the external borders.

New measures to protect the external borders were envisaged with the establishment of the European Border and Coast Guard in 2016. However, as the deployment of personnel and the provision of equipment by the Schengen states were voluntary, bottlenecks occurred and impaired the effectiveness of assignments. Consequently, Frontex is being given a broader mandate to support Schengen states' activities on border protection, return and cooperation with third countries. It is also being strengthened in terms of staff and technical equipment. The Schengen states will retain primary responsibility for the protection of their external borders.

The aim of the expansion is to further improve the fight against cross-border crime and illegal migration at the external border, which will benefit Switzerland too. The regulation likewise provides for the extension of human rights protection by Frontex in favour of migrants.

Staff

In order to ensure the necessary staffing, Frontex will set up a standing corps of up to 10,000 operational staff between 2021 and 2027. This figure is to be seen as maximum capacity. During the negotiations on the revised regulation, Switzerland successfully advocated that the size of the standing corps be reviewed in 2023. The standing corps will include operational staff members from Frontex and from the member states under long-term secondments or deployed for a short time. Switzerland already participates in Frontex assignments. It will probably deploy up to 16 experts to the Agency each year for two-year periods up to 2027, as well as up to 59 experts for missions of up to four months each. The experts are to be provided by the Federal Customs Administration (FCA), the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) and the cantons.

Returns

Frontex will be able to assist the Schengen states with all aspects of the return of persons staying there illegally. The new mandate includes assisted voluntary return and assistance of member states in the identification of third-country nationals and the acquisition of travel documents.

Financial implications

The EU intends to provide Frontex with a significantly higher budget. This will lead to an increase in Switzerland's contributions to Frontex, which amount to around CHF 14 million per year at present. According to current calculations, Switzerland's contributions will gradually rise to as much as CHF 75 million by 2024. However, it is impossible to obtain exact figures at the moment, as negotiations regarding the EU's multiannual financial framework for 2021 to 2027 have not yet been finalised and the results of the 2023 review may also impact the budget.

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