Through an agreement with Frontex, the United Kingdom wants to normalize cooperation with Brussels. However, the country has long been involved in other EU programs to counter migration.
The British government has reached a preliminary agreement with the European Union on cooperation with Frontex. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to formally apply for this “third country” status at a meeting of European leaders in Granada in early October. This was reported by the Bloomberg news agency, citing “people familiar with the matter.” According to the report, a draft agreement with Frontex should be ready by the end of this month, which can then be signed by the EU Commission and the government in London after an approval process by both sides.
The former EU states had founded Frontex in 2004 as a joint border agency. Frontex also coordinates the implementation of the so-called Schengen acquis and the associated requirements for controlling all external borders of the Schengen area. This includes Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland. These countries also contribute to the overall budget for Frontex and participate in joint operations. It is not known how much money Britain plans to pay Frontex each year.
The request to cooperate with Frontex is another attempt by the UK to normalize EU cooperation. With Brexit, the UK had to leave the “European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice” as of Jan. 1, 2021, and the country became a third country from an EU perspective.
However, to combat and prosecute cross-border crime and terrorism, British authorities may continue to participate in important EU information systems and also cooperate with agencies. This is how it is regulated in the provisional “Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” which was negotiated at the last minute before Brexit. This privileged partnership includes continued participation in major police databases of Schengen states.
The situation is different for the EU agencies, which include Europol. Under the withdrawal agreement, Britain is allowed to send liaison officers to Europol headquarters in The Hague and share the secure messaging system through which the police forces of all Europol members communicate. British authorities will also be allowed to attend operational meetings at Europol. More important, however, is the opportunity to participate in Europol analysis projects. These involve combating “migrant smuggling.”
The planned Frontex agreement follows the UK’s recent decision to rejoin the EU’s multi-billion-dollar “Horizon Europe” research and innovation funding program, which also develops numerous migration control projects. There are also plans for the UK to participate in the “Copernicus” earth observation program, which Frontex, among others, uses to detect and stop migration into the EU at an early stage. This will allow the UK to use images from EU satellites, for example, to better monitor the crossing of small boats carrying refugees from the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
A UK-Frontex agreement would have no direct impact on curbing these crossings. This is because the phenomenon of “small boats” involves irregular departures from the EU, which are not punishable.
However, the Frontex mandate also includes joint prosecution of “migrant smuggling” with Europol. To this end, British police authorities are already working closely with residents of the English Channel and Germany. In 2021, Frontex had already sent an aircraft from Denmark to patrol the English Channel for this purpose.
In response to a question from “nd”, Frontex has confirmed ongoing negotiations with the UK Home Office for a joint agreement. The agency is working “closely with the European Commission and the Member States” on this. At this stage, however, the spokeswoman did not want to give any further information.
Published in German in „nd“.