Frontex: MEPs recommend refusing sign-off of 2020 accounts

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

Members of the Budgetary Control Committee recommend against clearing the 2020 budget for Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard agency.

The EP committee refused to grant the so-called “discharge” of the 2020 budget of the EU’s border control agency, Frontex, with 12 votes in favour to 15 against.

In a draft resolution accompanying the decision, adopted by 26 votes to one in a separate vote, MEPs cite as a reason the “magnitude of the committed serious misconduct” and possible structural problems under the previous executive director of the agency, who has resigned on 28 April 2022, following the release of a revealing OLAF report.

MEPs express “shock and deep concern about the case of suicide of a staff member, related to alleged practices of sexual harassment”, and welcome the reopening of this case by the new leadership. They note that 17 cases of sexual harassment in the agency were reported in 2020, of which 15 were closed without follow-up.

Nevertheless, MEPs welcome the appointment of the new interim Frontex director as of July 2022, as well as the positive changes with respect to the respect of fundamental rights and in the management style within the agency, and the new leadership’s commitment to remedial action.

MEPs welcome the efforts by the new interim executive director to make “the Agency a safe place to work that encourages people to speak up”, and insist on the need to have compulsory training on social harassment for management and staff.

Frontex operations in Hungary and Greece

In their discharge report, MEPs also regret that Frontex has not implemented some of the conditions set out in Parliament’s previous report. In particular, they call for the suspension of Frontex’s support-related activities (returns) in Hungary, given the rule of law situation in the country, and they want a follow-up to the agency’s activities in Greece, where it was, according to reports, carrying out border surveillance operations in sections where, simultaneously, migrant push-backs were taking place.

EESC and Council

With 17 votes in favour, 6 against and 3 abstentions, the committee recommends Parliament grant discharge to the European Economic and Social Committee, after initially having postponed it in May.

As has been the case for more than a decade, MEPs recommend refusing discharge for the Council, due to the institution’s lack of cooperation on the issue, by 25 votes in favour and 1 against.

Next steps

MEPs will vote in plenary on all discharge decisions during the October II siting in Strasbourg.

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