10 years of FRONTEX in the Schengen area

Kamil Augustyniak

Emil Wojtaluk

It’s been 10 years since the FRONTEX agency has been set up with its premises in Warsaw, Poland. At this occasion on 22 April 2015, Department of European Union Law of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin together with the Rule of Law Institute Foundation organized a training seminar as a part of the project “Support for Voluntary Returns in Lublin Region II” in the form of conference entitled “10 years of FRONTEX in the Schengen area”. It was a great occasion to summarize the activities of this EU agency to this date, and analyze the achievements in the sphere of external border management. The conference was also linked with the presentation of the book “FRONTEX agency in the Schengen area. 10 years of experience”.

frontex_horizontal_logo

Source: fra.europa.eu

The way towards creating FRONTEX seems to be quite short but in fact there were many crucial factors from the history of European integration which led to creation of this significant EU agency. It all started in 1985 when five member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to create among them border-free area. Since the agreement was established outside of the European Community structures, the official Schengen Area for the EU was created on 26 March, 1995. From that time the number of members grew up to 26 European countries and the principle is currently recognized as European Union law. Increasing significance of Schengen Area forced authorities to creation of body responsible for its management and security. This is why, pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004, FRONTEX was created. Its main tasks are connected with maintaining EU external borders security, including from illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist activity.

©Daniel Cetlicer/ the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

©Daniel Cetlicer/ the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

During conference few interesting issues were explained. First of all, the statement that the agency cannot handle the current situation in Europe where hundreds of illegal immigrants are transported to Europe is not true. The agency rely only on member states’ equipment – it has no its own vehicles to control the borders. Since not every country is willing to take care about external border of the EU (because it has no such), instruments needed to careful control these broad areas are limited. Therefore the accusation of not fulfilling obligations is simply not fair, especially after recent results of FRONTEX activities that are better than ever. Second issue taken into consideration was related to not obeying the law by the agency and not respecting human rights. It should be said that, truly, the ability to balance legal and humanitarian perspective is a challenge but always the goodness of people is a priority. In media there are numerous information about how many people died during illicit transfer to Europe and alleged failure of rescue teams but nobody mentions that FRONTEX saved more than 30 thousand lives last year. Every single illegal immigrant is treated equally with respect of all rights. The next very important issue linked with taking care of illegal immigrants mentioned at the conference was non-refoulement principle which provides a prohibition of expulsion of any person if in country of its origin will be exposed to serious infringement of fundamental human rights, e.g. tortures. This international principle is not just a theory – every EU member state is obliged to follow it in practice.

Piotr Malinowski, Service Development Team Coordinator (Frontex Situation Centre) ©Daniel Cetlicer

Piotr Malinowski, Service Development Team Coordinator (Frontex Situation Centre) ©Daniel Cetlicer

Another worth mentioning issue was that FRONTEX does not have its own “risk management system”. It uses for example what was created by the SIS (Schengen Information System). The agency coordinates activities of EU member states in securing their borders. Risk management is composed of: defined objective – optimization of functioning of the external borders of the EU, trainings of border officers, preparing reports, means of communication (community based on intelligence and the exchange of information). All of that combined is called “Smart Border Management”.

From the point of terminology, there is an existing dispute whether we have irregular or maybe illegal migrants. There is a growing tendency to use irregular migrant term more often, and this is how we should call a person who crossed the border illegally. Let’s think, how any human being can be illegal?

©Daniel Cetlicer/the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

©Daniel Cetlicer/the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

Thirty years of Schengen Agreement, twenty years of Schengen Area and ten years of existence of FRONTEX was a perfect opportunity to prepare a sum-up conference that showed how unification, following common principles and helping refugees changed Europe. Although there are issues which need increased engagement and better coordination of all EU member states, the idea of open and fair European Union succeeded.

The beginning of the end for roaming

Magdalena Styrnik

“Please, hurry up, I’m abroad”- how many times you had to say so while talking on your mobile phone during your trip, being aware of very high charges? Good news! The EU is doing its very best to get rid  of roaming.

Source: pipelinepub.com

Source: pipelinepub.com

 Saving customers from “bill shocks”

Roaming makes us pay for each of outgoing and incoming voice call, outgoing text messages and, what became very popular through last few years, online data download. That can be a reason for surprisingly high bill.

Source: mobilewatch.ca

Source: mobilewatch.ca

The highest roaming charges  permitted have been steadily lowered since 2007. Maximum prices decreased in 2008 and 2009. Since then the EU’s law requires that customers travelling to another Member State have to receive a text message of charges that apply for roaming services. Also, the operators are obligated to send customers a warning when they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit and cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached.

It is worth to note that  the EU achieved retail price reductions across calls, SMS and data over 80% since 2007. That retail could have been even more spectacular if first major reforms affected on the telecoms market in 2013.

Why is it so expensive?

While travelling to a foreign country with our mobile phone, we make our mobile phone company and one in the foreign country  work together to keep us connected. Networks claim that roaming charges are  so high, because they have to cover costs of using space on rival networks.

The largest operators warned in 2013 that abolishing roaming could cost the industry € 7 billion in cash flow before 2020. What is more, these charges are such an important source of revenue that removing it could force networks to cut their investments. Doing so would slow down the development of 4G technologies.

On the other hand, it is estimated that end of roaming charges would bring economic benefits to the 500 million citizens of the EU- that seems to be the reason for regulating roaming issue by the EU. A coalition of networks warns that the result of badly designed law will be an increase of costs of domestic calls, which can be major and long-lasting  problem of abolishing roaming fees.

Roaming fees can remain until 2018

onair.areo1akapit

Source: onair.areo

The European Parliament had voted to make roaming charges illegal by the end of 2015. Member states voted in  favor of a delay, which means that fees will remain at least until 2018, Then they  will look  into the situation again.

However, there is a hope for the customers. One of the proposals  member states and their telecom operators presented, was to make roaming much more cheaper. More probable and practical solution is to create a kind of a basic roaming limit for all calls, texts and data  to use abroad. Any usage above this limit would be the subject of further charges. That idea is likely to be enforced in the middle of next year. Also, important issue is that the EU provides maximum permissible prices- operators are free to offer us cheaper ones!

It is said that the European telecom market is not ready for total roaming abolishment. With no doubt customers  will not be against it. It seems like till 2018 customers can just chose the best offer to pay as less as possible and patiently wait for next decision of member states.