Most of the countries of the European Union (EU) today requested clarification on the tasks that the European border guards will assume with which they want to reinforce Frontex, before deciding the exact number of necessary police, that the European Commission proposes to ascend to 10,000 troops.
The matter was discussed in a council of interior ministers in Luxembourg, where the holders discussed the Brussels proposal to strengthen the EU's external borders with 10,000 additional guards by 2020 that would be responsible, among other tasks, for border control and helping in the returns of immigrants.
Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, whose country chairs the EU this semester, told a news conference at the end of the council that there is a "broad consensus" on the idea of strengthening Frontex, but that there are "concerns" at the same time and aspects to clarify.
European sources told Efe that most countries want to clarify in the first place the specific tasks of this reinforced European guard, and then define the volume of that permanent body, funding or the deadline to put it in motion.
Another aspect that worries, said the minister, is the way to guarantee that it does not interfere in the national sovereignty.
On that last aspect, the European Commissioner for Immigration, Dimitris Avramópulos, indicated that during today's meeting he took the opportunity to clarify some "misunderstandings and concerns", such as "Frontex will not assume the national responsibility to protect the EU's external borders".
The idea of strengthening Frontex, the European border agency, was formally presented by Brussels last September and was first addressed by European leaders at the informal summit in Salzburg (Austria) at the end of the month.
Spain endorsed the idea at that summit, but stressed that it must be done with a "flexible" mechanism, that is, one that adapts to the needs of each country, and that it be "complementary", without questioning national sovereignty over the control of borders.
Ministers also debated the proposal to reform the Return Directive and in particular the procedure of border returns for immigrants who do not have the right to apply for protection in the EU.
The member states believe that the proposal is "a good idea", which will help "more efficient and faster" returns, said the Austrian minister, adding that the idea should continue to be worked on, which is linked to other aspects, such as readmission agreements with third countries.
Some ministers, he added, even raised the idea of allowing returns against the will of those affected, to countries that are not their places of origin.
According to the EC, of the more than 516,000 foreign citizens who received the order to leave the EU in 2017, only about 188,000 (36.6%) were returned, a percentage that Brussels considers excessively low.
The eurocommissioner said that in order to simplify and accelerate these procedures, the EC is in favor of making the return compulsory after all rejected asylum applications.
At the working lunch the ministers talked about migratory flows in the Mediterranean and how to cooperate between countries to reduce them, and Austria mentioned a new proposal of "compulsory solidarity" that would involve all member states in one way or another in the efforts.
Today's meeting was not attended by the Spanish head of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska and in his place was the Secretary of State for Security, Ana Botella.