Czech and Slovak prime ministers criticize plans to upgrade Frontex

Andrej Babiš, Peter Pellegrini, photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s EU summit in Salzburg, the Czech and Slovak heads of government criticized the European Commission‘s plans to increase funding for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex. They argued that this amounts to duplicating European security structures and boosting an agency that has not proven very effective.

Andrej Babiš,  Peter Pellegrini,  photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš
Monday’s joint session of the Czech and Slovak governments took on a broader scope as the countries' prime ministers addressed an issue very much in the international news: plans to upgrade the EU border force Frontex, proposed by the European Commission and backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during their meeting on Sunday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that in his view Frontex was obsolete and questioned the need to pour money into a parallel structure to the coast guards of individual European countries.

"The cost of Frontex now amounts to around 1.7 billion euros and now the European Commission is proposing to make it 10 billion. I am convinced that Greece Italy, Malta or Spain do not need Frontex – I have spoken to them about it. We need to ask ourselves why we are pouring money into a parallel force when these countries have their own border guards. Of course if Frontex operated outside the EU it would be a different matter.”

Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini echoed these sentiments saying it would be more sensible to give the money directly to Italy, Malta, Greece, Spain or Portugal, for them to strengthen their own borders. Frontex, he said, could be a coordinating, administrative body.

“We must choose such solutions where the bulk of the money goes where it is effective and is not eaten up by administrating bodies.”

Illustrative photo: Arbeitsbesuch Mazedonien,  CC BY 2.0
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that in addition to helping individual member states, EU funds should be used to reach agreement with North African countries, along the lines of the EU-Turkey Pact, to prevent migration for economic reasons and create conditions which would allow migrants to stay in their home countries. As regards Syria, Babiš said it was essential to help migrants return home by securing lasting peace and helping to fund the reconstruction of the country.

The Czech and Slovak heads of government said the Visegrad Group states would meet for consultations ahead of Wednesday’s EU summit, on these and other issues. The Czech prime minister praised communication within the alliance, stressing that the V4 needed to make its voice heard since it represented the interests of 65 million Europeans.