Resolution is European representatives’ second formal admonition against agency’s opacity within the space of a few months.
On 8 July, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the annual report of the functioning of the Schengen area, in which it criticises Frontex for its intransparency. The admonition follows after another Parliament resolution earlier this year, in which the agency’s poor performance in relation to disclosures concerning its activities was one of the reasons for the European representatives to withhold discharge of Frontex’ 2019 budget.
The resolution addresses a wider range of issues for which several EU institutions and bodies are responsible. However, in a number of passages, it directs its attention to Frontex and the question of transparency. Thus, the Parliament notes that “internal reporting mechanisms, as well as parliamentary and public scrutiny over Frontex’s activities, must be reinforced and effectively implemented”. Moreover, the Parliament “calls on Frontex to significantly enhance the information available on its operational activities at sea, including through regular and adequate reporting to Parliament”.
Since several months, Frontex has been at the centre of a series of scandals leading to very negative coverage both in Brussel-based and national media. Various investigative reports have claimed that the agency’s human resource management is said to be in disarray, with internal bullying being rife, various pivotal positions left vacant, and newly attracted personnel kept in limbo.
On top of that, strong allegations surfaced this spring according to which Frontex was involved in pushbacks of asylum seekers on the EU’s border, as well as potential violations of fundamental rights.
A perception of disregard of these issues among the agency’s senior management suspected to be politically motivated, accompanied by a number of instances in which Frontex acted in a secretive and opaque manner, further stoked the fire. For instances, the agency tried to suppress public knowledge of a large bill for an annual staff dinner, and unsuccesfully prosecuted civil society actors to recover an exorbitant bill for legal fees after an access to documents court case.
In response, the European Parliament has ramped up its oversight of Frontex, inter alia setting up a Working Group on Frontex Scrutiny. A first investigative report on the agency is expected to appear later this week.