With a “Standing Corps”, the European Union has a uniformed and armed police unit for the first time. Whether Frontex is allowed to buy, store and transport weapons at all, however, is controversial. A planned loan agreement with Greece has not yet materialised.
The European border agency Frontex is equipping its new “Standing Corps” with firearms from the Austrian arms manufacturer Glock. The company is supplying 2,500 9×19 mm semi-automatic pistols, according to the procurement portal for pan-European tenders, and will receive €3.76 million. The contract, initially concluded for a period of four years, can be extended several times. Glock must guarantee the availability and supply of all parts offered for at least 15 years.
The weapons are supplied with the usual accessories, including additional magazines, holsters, attachable torches, tool kits and cleaning kits. A framework contract also includes training for Frontex shooters and their trainers.
Frontex invited to “Industry Dialogue”
Another contract worth a total of €1.24 million was awarded by Frontex to the Polish companies Mildat and Parasnake Arkadiusz Szewczyk for the delivery of 3.6 million rounds of ammunition. These are so-called full metal jacket bullets with high penetrating power as well as partial metal jacket bullets that hit the body with high energy and deform in the process.
Frontex had initially cancelled a first tender for armed equipment of its border force, and only in May of this year did the new listing on the EU tender portal follow. The reason given by Frontex was that the delivery deadline was too short and could not be met by the manufacturers due to difficulties caused by the Corona pandemic. On this occasion, technical requirements had also been changed “which were perceived as too narrow by some prospective tenderers”, the Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri wrote last week.
Prior to the upcoming tender, Frontex had invited six weapons manufacturers to an “Industry Dialogue”. Glock had presented the small-calibre pistol “G44” there; the weapon has a magazine for ten shots. The company supplies a total of three magazines for each pistol. Whether Frontex actually decided in favour of the “G44” remains open. With the order, Glock can once again increase its turnover; last year, the company’s profits are said to have more than tripled.
3,000 “Category 1” officers
Frontex is building up a unit of 10,000 officers with the “Standing Corps”, 7,000 of whom will be equipped from the member states and deployed to Frontex missions. 3,000 of them will be uniformed and armed by Frontex as “Category 1”. They report directly to Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri and his deputies. The means of coercion also include baton, handcuffs and irritants. Such an EU police force is unique so far.
Originally, the arming of the “Standing Corps” was to take place with its first operational readiness at the beginning of this year. However, two expert reports commissioned by Frontex and the EU Commission concluded that the EU lacks the legal basis to acquire weapons and ammunition. The Frontex Management Board then issued a clarification stating that the agency’s usual equipment, which it has been allowed to procure itself since 2016, could include firearms.
Headquarters agreement with Poland
The seat of the EU Border Agency is in Warsaw, and a so-called headquarters agreement regulates organisational details. Neither in this treaty nor in Polish law, however, is Frontex mentioned as a unit that may acquire, register, store or transport weapons or ammunition to areas of operation. The Commission wanted to reach an agreement on this. What it consists of and whether it has actually been signed, remains unclear.
In order for Frontex’s “Category 1” to be able to go on missions without its own weapons for the time being, the agency wanted to borrow weapons, accessories and ammunition from the police there in the case of Greece. Leggeri had announced a corresponding agreement with the government in Athens in the EU Parliament in March.
However, it has not yet been concluded, the Frontex director wrote last week. Leggeri has negotiated further loan agreements with Lithuania, Romania and Finland, which are also not yet in force.