The European Parliament refuses to approve Frontex’s budget management due to its scandals and human rights violations with the vote of 345 MEPs, while 284 voted against and 8 abstained. Thus, the plenary criticizes the “magnitude of the serious faults and other irregularities” that took place under the mandate of Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of the agency who resigned last April after the report of the European anti-fraud office (OLAF).
The report by the EU Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF) shows how the EU’s European border agency has been complicit in these human rights violations.
Why? Because, according to the report, Frontex management repeatedly concealed suspected fundamental rights cases from its own officers and prevented them from working; because the agency withdrew its aerial surveillance to stop recording the violations; because it co-financed some of the Greek entities that made the hot returns; because he deceived the bodies in charge of supervising the agency; and although the push-backs are “serious or persistent legal infractions”, Frontex did not withdraw from the joint operations as provided for in the agency’s regulations.
The agency, according to MEPs, has not done what is necessary to guarantee the protection of the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers and, according to journalistic information, participated in the illegal returns of at least 957 refugees between March 2020 and September 2021 .
MEPs have expressed their “shock and deep concern” over the case of the suicide of a person who worked at the agency, related to alleged practices of sexual harassment, and highlight that in 2020, 17 cases of sexual harassment were reported within Frontex, of of which 15 were shelved without further follow-up.
The European Parliament, likewise, welcomes the appointment of an interim director, in July 2022; corrective measures taken or planned and changes in the field of fundamental rights.
He also acknowledges the change in management style, to ensure that “people are not afraid to report possible irregularities”, but warns that the agency’s problems could be of a deeper “structural” nature and not be limited to bad conduct of some people, as defended by the board of directors of the agency.
Operations in Hungary and Greece
The European Parliament regrets that Frontex has not fulfilled some of the conditions of previous reports on budget management. Specifically, MEPs insist that the agency must immediately suspend its involvement in returns of immigrants and asylum seekers in Hungary, given the state of the rule of law in the country.
Regarding Greece, MEPs are very concerned about the latest revelations that the Frontex hierarchy was aware of the illegal returns of people in the country, and that agency staff were involved in them. The text urges the Commission to ensure that this does not happen again.
The European Parliament has the exclusive power to approve the way in which the EU bodies execute their budget, taking the decision to grant, postpone or refuse discharge.
As an authority in this field, the rest of the institutions must be accountable to it on how they spend public funds. During the discharge procedure, the European Parliament checks the legality, regularity and sound financial management (including, for example, efficiency), and also assesses to what extent the institution in question has contributed to the achievement of the EU political objectives and has acted in line with EU values.
The discharge procedure has become an important tool for the European Parliament to check how public funds have been spent and how EU projects have been carried out. In the past, the European Parliament has refused to give discharge to various EU agencies and bodies, including the European Commission on two occasions, in 1984 and in 1998, the latter occasion ultimately leading to the resignation of the Commission.
In 2016 and 2017, Parliament refused to discharge the European Asylum Support Office in Malta, which also led to changes in its management and organizational structure.