EU Parliament refuses to approve EU border agency’s accounts

EU Parliament refuses to approve EU border agency’s accounts

The European Parliament refused to sign off the EU border agency's accounts, saying it had failed to investigate human rights violations of asylum seekers in Greece.

The agency's directors Fabrice Leggeri, who left after an investigation by Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud body, was the subject of a vote on the agency, Frontex.

The decision of the parliament was based on a report drafted largely before Leggeri resigned, and showed continued concern that Frontex was failing to protect asylum seekers' rights and uphold EU law.

During a meeting in Strasbourg, MEPs voted to postpone approving the Frontex accounts for 2020, as well as the budgets of dozens of other EU agencies that spend European taxpayers money.

The resignation of Frontex director last week did not address structural problems, nor the agency's contribution to Fortress Europe policy, according to the Belgian Green MEP Saskia Bricmont, who sits on the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee. In response to the migration crisis of 2015 -- 16, Frontex, the European border and coastguard agency in Warsaw, received a big increase in funding, as 1.3 million people applied for asylum. One of the EU's best-funded agencies, it had an annual budget of €364 m 307 m in 2020, up 10% from the previous year. The plan is to expand it further, to 10,000 border and coastguards by 2027.

The delay in approving its accounts has no financial consequences for the agency, but it is a form of political censure that empowers MEPs to issue recommendations to its new director. The European Parliament delayed the approval of Frontex's accounts in 2021 and rebuked the agency for failing to respond to its previous recommendations.

The budgetary control committee of the European Parliament referred to problems in two EU member states in a report giving the reasons for the latest delay. In Greece, Frontex did not evaluate its activities despite official reports from national authorities, the Council of Europe and the UN that the agency was operating in areas where fundamental rights violations were taking place, it said.

The European Court of Justice ruled that Budapest was failing to implement EU law to protect asylum seekers, despite a 2020 ruling by the European court of justice. After the court judgment, another committee of MEPs called for Frontex to withdraw from Hungary. The agency continued working with the Budapest government on case-by-case basis, including helping to return people denied asylum to their country of origin.

Three-quarters of senior managers were men, as did MEPs criticising the lopsided gender balance at Frontex. It urged the agency to hold people accountable for 17 cases of harassment, even though it didn't provide details.

MEPs rebuked EU authorities for not giving them access to the findings of the EU anti-fraud agency, which opened an investigation in 2019 into alleged harassment, misconduct and illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers by Frontex. Olaf recommended disciplinary action against Leggeri and two other staff members, but he didn't want to say anything.

Tom Zdechovsk, a Czech centre-right MEP who oversees the Frontex accounts, said it was impossible to approve the accounts without knowing the results of the Olaf investigation. After Leggeri's resignation he was looking forward to a more open dialogue with the agency.

The resolution criticising Frontex passed 492 votes, with the centre-right, centre-left, liberals, green and radical left groups agreeing. The report was opposed by 145 MEPs from conservative nationalist parties and the far right.