Conclusions of the Frontex Management Board’s meeting of 20-21 January 2021

Frontex Management Board met virtually on 20-21 January 2021. After two-day discussions, the Management Board has reached the following conclusions:  

Conclusions of the Management Board’s meeting on the preliminary report of its Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations in the Aegean Sea

The Management Board thanks the Working Group Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations for swift delivery of findings and takes note of its preliminary report. It welcomes in particular that the Working Group has involved also Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Officer, as well as the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Consultative Forum in its discussions.

The Management Board takes note that five out of 13 incidents that have been examined still require further inquiry by the Working Group and additional clarifications.

The Management Board takes note that on the eight incidents that the Working Group could close at this stage and, on the basis of the information provided, it could not establish evidence of fundamental rights violations.

The Management Board is very concerned that the Agency missed to provide information on three incidents identified by the Working Group in time, so that the Working Group could not yet draw any conclusions with a view to certain cases.

The Management Board invites the Executive Director of the Agency to immediately provide the missing information and to implement the recommendations made in the report for the improvement of the Agency’s internal process and procedures, in particular:

  • To apply its current reporting system and to revise it in order to make it more efficient, including by

    >> clearly documenting a detailed allocation of responsibilities within the agency and ensuring that all staff responsible (including the Fundamental Rights Officer and the members of the Management Board) can fully exercise their duties;

    >> setting minimum requirements as to the qualification of  the experts in the Frontex Situation Centre (FSC),

    >> ensuring that Serious Incident Reports on alleged violation of Fundamental Rights are always reported to the Fundamental Rights Officer,

    >> providing that every Operational Plan should include a transparent reporting mechanism, inviting the Host Member States to involve in this transparent approach all assets which are acting in the operational area, with the objective that every incident in the operational area is reported.
  • To establish a systematic monitoring of the reporting mechanism;
  • To clarify the relation between its system of protecting whistleblowers and the exceptional reporting under the Serious Incident Reports mechanism, ensuring that confidential reports from Frontex employees and team members are handled in an appropriate way, given prompt follow-up and that the protection of the identity is guaranteed;
  • To ensure clear communication to staff and team members on these mechanisms, including mandatory training sessions;
  • To establish transparent rules on the Frontex-internal process to follow-up on serious incidents that have been established, including on the application of Art. 46 of the EBCG Regulation;
  • To recruit immediately the 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors (in accordance with the Regulation), which should have been in place by 5 December 2020 under the EBCG Regulation.

The Management Board agrees with the Working Group that there is no reason to establish the principle that any Serious Incident Report should be classified automatically as RESTREINT UE/EU RESTRICTED.

The Management Board requests the Executive Director to report, by 19 February 2021, on the state of implementation of the above recommendations and to submit a roadmap developed in cooperation with the Fundamental Rights Officer on any further steps that the Agency needs to take in this respect, with a view to guarantee their swiftest possible implementation.

The Management Board notes, furthermore, that the European Commission has accepted the request of the Working Group to elaborate on a number of questions that concern in particular the interpretation of certain legal provisions and application of jurisprudence of the ECtHR to the sea borders and the impact of that jurisprudence on the interpretation of provisions of Regulation (EU) 656/2014.

For its next extraordinary meeting, the Management Board asks the Working Group to complete the examination of the incidents and to submit, by 26 February 2021, its final report on its work.

Conclusions of the Management Board’s meeting on the standing corps, in particular category 1

The Management Board was informed about the state of play regarding the EBCG standing corps establishment.

The Management Board welcomes, as the first successful step, the deployment of the first teams of the standing corps, largely composed of Member States’ category 2 and category 3 officers who are already deployed in the Agency`s activities.

In accordance with the Regulation 2019/1896, as of January 2021 the Agency is obliged to start the deployment of the standing corps teams, including in particular the statutory staff under category 1 of the standing corps. In accordance with the Management Board Decision of 3 April 2020 on the annual and multiannual planning of the standing corps, 700 category 1 statutory staff were to be ready for the deployment as team members of the standing corps as of 1 January 2021.  

In this context, the Management Board is very concerned that the Agency has effectively recruited 419 standing corps officers in 2020, however, of which only 255 have completed the basic training to be ready for deployment as of January 2021.  

While the Management Board acknowledges that this situation is significantly influenced by the global pandemic, it should be resolved as a matter of priority  to ensure the effectiveness of the standing corps support for the Member States at the external borders and in return operations in 2021.

The Management Board notes that the Agency plans to make available for deployment in total 650 category 1 officers to be deployed as team members, including those who are still in training as well as those who need to be recruited and trained in the course of 2021. However, this total number will still be 50 officers short of the required number identified by the Management Board. Finally, the Management Board notes that the agency has recruited additional 49 staff outside category 1 as operational coordination chain.

Given the above considerations, the Management Board urges the Executive Director to ensure that:

  • all 700 operational statutory staff required by the Management Board Decision of 3 April 2020 are available for deployment as team members as soon as possible. This includes the possibility of launching additional calls for interest;
  • all 40 Fundamental Rights monitors are recruited without any further delay as provided for in Regulation 2019/1896;
  • 80 out of the 242 staff members of the ETIAS Central Unit are effectively recruited in the course of 2021 to support the implementation of the system and 162 remaining staff members by the first half of 2022, so that they will be fully available when the system becomes operational;
  • the necessary preparations are made as soon as possible to ensure that 500 additional standing corps statutory staff are recruited and trained for their effective deployment as of 1 January 2023, as required by the Regulation 2019/1896;
  • the Management Board is informed monthly in writing on the progress in implementing the above points.

The Management Board also encourages the Member States concerned to provide their respective missing contributions under category 2 and category 3 at the latest by end of March 2021. 

The Management Board will closely monitor the situation in the coming weeks and will discuss the state of play at its next regular meeting in March 2021.