MEPs to challenge new Frontex rules in court
The EU's controversial new guidelines for anti-immigration patrols will be challenged in court by the European Parliament following a decision taken by its Legal Affairs Committee yesterday.
The committee is arguing that the European Commission was wrong not to have given Parliament a chance to amend the rules when it presented them, leaving it with the choice of either accepting or rejecting them. Instead, the normal legislative procedure should have been followed, allowing Parliament to have a say. The Commission acted beyond its powers, so the rules are invalid, the Parliament charges.
Once procedures get under way, the European Court would be expected to give a ruling in about 18 months' time. Under the new guidelines, migrants rescued on the high seas by the EU border agency Frontex would have to be taken to the mission's host country rather than to the closest safe port, the practice Malta always adopted.
Malta objected forcefully when the rules were announced. Since it might have hosted Frontex missions, as it has done over the past few years, it would have had to receive all migrants picked up on the Libya-Italy route. The rules led Malta to declare it would not participate in Frontex missions under such conditions.
The decision to take the guidelines to the European Court of Justice can be considered a personal victory for Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, who first proposed the challenge to the EP last April. Dr Busuttil, who represents the European People's Party in the Civil Liberties Committee, had won the backing of all the political parties in his committee, bar the Socialists, when he first proposed the challenge. The proposal was yesterday endorsed by the Legal Affairs Committee, which has the final say on whether the Parliament should go to court or not.
Contacted following the vote, a satisfied Dr Busuttil said the EP had given notice that it was time for a rethink on the guidelines. "We want to ensure that Parliament's role is defended. But we must also ensure that these rules are fair. In their present version they are not," he said.