Select Committee on European Union Seventeenth Report


72. Enlargement will unavoidably change the character of the European Union. Unless current Member States accept the moral imperatives of adjusting established assumptions and structures, enlargement will not proceed. The eastern frontiers of the EU were defined by the dividing lines between the allied armies at the end of the Second World War. Warsaw Pact forces, in effect, secured an impermeable east/west frontier. It is neither possible nor desirable for the EU to attempt to re-establish a comparably tight and impermeable border further east. The candidate states have close and long-standing ties with their immediate neighbours, across frontiers which have been redrawn several times during the twentieth century.[40] The foundations of the EU, laid in the aftermath of war, were not and should not become the basis for a fortress mentality. We have consistently supported enlargement of the European Union to bring in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since it first became possible as a result of the political changes in those States. We have also been sensitive to the danger of creating new divisions in Europe should accession require the applicant States to sever close economic and political relations with neighbouring States for whom EU membership may be a very distant prospect. We continue to urge that a proper accommodation, based on a continuing need for the applicant States to co-operate with their eastern neighbours, should be found.[41]

73. We have not, in the course of our inquiry, compared the EU's approach to its southern frontier with that adopted in negotiations with the candidate states over the eastern frontier. As we note below, there is some evidence to suggest that flows of illegal entrants have switched to the southern perimeter of the EU as candidate countries in the east have tightened their frontier controls. Along the EU's southern frontier, Member States continue to strike a difficult balance between effective controls and necessary and desirable flows of goods and people. Economic relations between Spain and Morocco, between Italy and Tunisia, cause extensive human movement; unavoidably, some illegal migrants and criminals succeed in evading controls. The EU's aim in extending its eastern frontiers to incorporate the current candidates must be to strike a similar balance, not to impose harsher standards.

74. The EU needs secure frontiers, and existing standards should not be lowered. Frontier controls are a necessary counterbalance to otherwise vulnerable, open internal borders. They present a significant though not impenetrable obstacle to organised crime and illegal immigration. The exposure of the existing Member States to these phenomena varies according to their geographical position, with "front-line" states such as Germany or Austria arguably facing more immediate risks. It is vital that enlargement should not diminish the protection given by the EU's eastern frontiers, particularly as the frontiers of an enlarged EU must offer protection against any threats that might be posed by political or economic problems in the states of the former Soviet Union. However, the Schengen system is in fact built around a dual framework in which a strict external frontier control is complemented by co-operation among national law enforcement agencies. This system embodies the recognition that frontier control alone cannot bear the full weight of ensuring internal security without choking off trade and human contacts. The EU's approach to the candidate countries should follow the same dual framework.

75. It is worth emphasising that the present frontiers of the EU are by no means watertight. Frontier control is not an exact science—problems may be managed, but they are never entirely solved. Illegal immigrants, criminal organisations, traffickers in people or drugs, have already penetrated and continue to penetrate the Union. Despite substantial investment of manpower and equipment, neither the German nor the Austrian governments have entirely succeeded in stemming unwelcome cross-border flows on their eastern frontiers. We note, for example, that many illegal immigrants apprehended in the UK had previously entered the EU across Germany's eastern frontier. The extent to which enlargement to the east will exacerbate such problems remains unclear and essentially speculative, especially if the candidate countries continue with their current efforts to upgrade their frontier control systems. The Committee was told that traffickers are increasingly operating by water rather than land. Eastern enlargement will clearly make little difference to the difficulties already being experienced in guarding the southern frontiers, in particular the many thousands of miles of Italian, Greek and Spanish coastline.

76. One symbol of the current EU's solidarity in the field of immigration is the common visa list. This should not be allowed to alienate countries outside the first wave of candidates. In particular, the Committee welcomes the current Commission proposal to lift the visa requirements on Romanians and Bulgarians. Should the proposal be adopted, the Committee hopes that the UK will also lift these visa requirements. There is little prospect in the near future of removing visa requirements for non-candidates, such as Ukraine. However, the EU should look sympathetically at special visa arrangements—fast-track or multiple-entry visas, or single-country visas—which would ease the position of those excluded from the enlarged EU, and facilitate cross-frontier trade and social contact.

77. Enlargement demands effort on both sides. In adopting the EU acquis the candidate countries are undertaking comprehensive and often painful reform. The Union and its political leaders must be equally committed and vigorous in helping the candidates to complete this reform—in giving them moral as well as practical support. In the candidate states the prospect of early enlargement is vital if the process of reform is to be kept up, and public support for accession maintained—fears over frontier security should not be made to supply a pretext for delay. The precise timetable for enlargement is beyond the scope of this report. However, the most advanced candidate countries have set themselves a target of 1 January 2003. It may not be possible to meet this target; but if so, it is at least incumbent on the EU to offer a clearer indication of the likely timetable than it has done hitherto.

78. This is the first enlargement in which the Justice and Home Affairs acquis has played a significant part. Within Justice and Home Affairs, the issue of frontier security is politically probably the most sensitive. The United Kingdom, despite its separate frontier controls, has a strong interest in the issue: as the discovery of the bodies of 58 Chinese immigrants at Dover on 18-19 June demonstrated, the problems of illegal immigration and organised crime do not stop at the English Channel. Unlike the UK and Ireland, the candidate countries do not have the option of negotiating a partial entry into the Schengen system. As the Protocol Integrating the Schengen Acquis within the Framework of the European Union makes clear, participation in Schengen is inseparable from accession to the Union. It seems that no possibility of derogation from any part of the Schengen acquis has been offered to the applicants.

79. The incorporation of the Schengen acquis within the European Union means that a huge and complex body of law and practice, much of it set out in the confidential Common Manual, must be "accepted in full" upon accession. Such a challenge has never before been presented to candidates for entry into the EU. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Finland and Sweden were all full Member States before applying to join Schengen. The process of satisfying the members of the Schengen group that these new members met the required standards has taken several years. It is an exhaustive, exacting and continual process. Schengen members remain subject to regular internal monitoring to ensure that standards of compliance with the acquis are maintained. It would be unreasonable to expect the present candidate countries to meet Schengen standards in full upon accession. A better option is to allow the applicants to join the EU at the earliest opportunity so that their arrangements for full implementation of the acquis would also be subject to regular evaluation and progress reports by the EU's Schengen Evaluation Group. The existing Schengen countries would take the final decision on the lifting of internal border controls with the new Member States. Such an approach is in keeping with the traditional two-stage process of signing up to, and applying, the Schengen acquis.

80. Should this approach be adopted, the candidate countries will not be required to implement the acquis in full upon accession, but simply to demonstrate what the Government called "generally effective and secure border management", along with "an underlying capacity to meet the Schengen standards in full over time". If this is so, then it appears that the frontier control issue need not after all delay enlargement. Some delay will in any case be imposed on the EU and the candidate states by the technical limitations of the Schengen Information System. There would thus be an indeterminate transitional period following accession, during which the Schengen "Collective Evaluation Mechanism" would appraise the new Member States' implementation of the frontier control acquis. As mentioned above, once satisfied that it had been implemented in full, internal borders would be opened. The difficulty is that the EU does not yet appear to have defined precisely what standards would be required to satisfy it that "generally secure and effectively managed borders existed". This has to be made explicit at an early date. Provided that sufficient progress has been made towards meeting acceptable standards before accession, full compliance should not be presented as a pre-condition for entry into the EU. Much of the detail of monitoring and inspecting frontier control procedures can be developed further after the candidate states have become EU members

81. However, we must also sound a note of caution. It can be argued that as a result of the incorporation of the Schengen acquis open internal borders are now perceived as a privilege of EU, rather than Schengen membership. The new Member States might soon become impatient at partial exclusion from the "area of freedom, security and justice". It is also possible that now that the Schengen acquis has been incorporated into the EU, rather than existing as a separate body of law and practice, it will become, in Dr Deubner's words, "politically … more negotiable". It remains to be seen how the traditionally rigorous evaluation process will evolve, and whether it will continue to be politically acceptable in an enlarged EU.

82. Frontier controls cannot be taken in isolation. A significant part of the Schengen acquis is devoted to enhancing co-operation between law enforcement agencies such as the police, immigration and customs officials. The creation of a central co-ordinating agency in each of the candidate countries, with a role similar to that of NCIS, might be a useful first step in facilitating inter-agency co-operation. Strengthening the judicial system so that judges and prosecutors are equipped to tackle organised and cross-border crime must also be regarded as a priority. Informal methods of co-operation and the presence of liaison officers from Member States are already helping candidate states to modernise policing methods. Early associate membership of Europol should in a more structured way help the candidate countries to develop systems for combating cross-border criminal activity. It is, however, essential that rigorous data protection standards and equally rigorous training of officers to ensure respect for those standards, are in place and subject to effective supervision and enforcement procedures before any exchange of data can be permitted.

83. While frontiers should present a secure barrier to criminal traffic, they should also facilitate legitimate trade and the movement of people. The Finnish/Russian example shows that it is possible to maintain a secure frontier while allowing legitimate traffic to flow freely. To achieve this one needs numerous crossing points with good infrastructure, sophisticated surveillance equipment, well-trained, honest and professional staff, and above all close co-operation at all levels with the authorities across the frontier. In such circumstances, frontiers may actually stimulate local economies. It is crucial that the EU should combine its insistence on high frontier control standards with support for the underdeveloped regions of eastern Poland and Hungary. Such aid should increase in volume after accession as the new members become eligible for structural funds.

84. The issue of free movement is strictly outside the scope of this Report, although some of the oral evidence taken in the course of the inquiry touched on the issue. Moreover, illegal immigration (from outside the EU) and labour migration within an enlarged EU are in reality often connected in public perception. It is clear to us that the existing Member States will have to accept that one of the results of establishing a full partnership with the states of Central and Eastern Europe will be that their peoples will expect to enjoy full rights of free movement within the Union. None of the evidence we have heard in the course of this inquiry supported the view that this would lead to significant or damaging labour migration from the candidate states.

85. We have emphasised throughout this Report that effective frontier control is best provided through co-operation between states on both sides of the frontier. Finnish experience in managing the frontier with Russia illustrates this. Finland has co-operated closely with its eastern neighbour since signing an agreement with the then Soviet Union in 1960. There has been similar cross-border co-operation, since 1989, between Germany and Poland. The European Union as a whole has no such history of co-operation, particularly as regards the operation of frontier controls. An essential parallel to eastern enlargement must therefore be the development of active partnership with the appropriate agencies in the EU's next neighbour states—Russia, Ukraine and, to the extent possible, Belarus. Training programmes and promises of assistance to these neighbouring states to upgrade facilities and equipment at and near their western frontiers should be expanded into a substantial partnership programme, aiming to provide for the border forces and law enforcement agencies of these states a similar transformation in quality and standards to that which NATO's Partnership for Peace Programme pursues with their armed forces. We were not convinced from the evidence we received that the EU and its Member States have yet given this dimension of the new external frontier sufficient attention.

86. The candidate states have themselves already made impressive progress towards meeting the EU frontier control acquis. Crossing-points have been built and Border Guards reorganised and re-equipped. The security of the eastern frontiers of Poland is much improved; the Committee was told that Estonia's frontiers were fully in compliance with Schengen. On data protection, crucial to participation in the Schengen Information System and in Europol, it appears that Slovenia meets many of the requirements, and that other first wave candidate states are also well advanced. This is an area in which full compliance is essential.

87. The EU is already providing considerable aid, principally through the Phare programme. However, the sums involved are small in comparison to the expenditure still required. Member States are also providing bilateral assistance, supplementing EU aid. Substantial assistance, over which the EU has no control, is also coming from the United States. However, this creates problems of co-ordination—there are signs of duplication in some areas, and gaps elsewhere. It may be that the Commission would be best placed to co-ordinate aid from the EU and its Member States. It is in any event incumbent on the EU to find a way to act more effectively in the JHA field. Equally, it should where appropriate seek to participate actively in American-led projects.

88. After enlargement, co-ordination will still be needed. However, the new Member States are likely to resist initiatives that appear to erode their sovereign responsibilities, or to suggest that they are less able to fulfil them than the current Member States. There is little likelihood that a multi-national border guard or patrol on the EU's external frontiers will be acceptable in the foreseeable future. Equally, some existing Member States are likely to resist any suggestion that there should be a common EU "pot" to finance frontier controls. The Committee was, however, interested in Mr Fortescue's suggestion that methods of frontier control might be co-ordinated by means of a European Border Police College. Moreover, enlargement will impose expensive frontier control responsibilities on states who are still not fully recovered from the economic stagnation of Communism. The Committee considers it a sign of lack of commitment to the strategic objective of enlargement that the EU has not yet addressed the issue of financial burden-sharing in managing the EU's external frontier.

89. Although beyond the scope of our inquiry, we can not conclude our Report without acknowledging the link between the EU acquis on external frontier controls and the development of a common EU policy on asylum and immigration. One consequence of the increased emphasis on tightening controls on entry, whether by physical means at the external frontier or by stiffer sanctions on carriers who bring non-EU nationals without the requisite travel documentation into a Member State, may be to push would-be immigrants into the EU (for whom few legal means of entry may be available) into the hands of organised crime.[42] There is potentially a vicious circle—the link between immigration and crime being strengthened by the very means being used to combat them. At some point the EU will have to confront its own need for migrant labour, and formulate a coherent immigration policy, in order to relieve the pressure on frontiers, and reduce the demand for the services of organised criminals. Such a policy will mean the EU having to look at ways to manage the admission and settlement of immigrants as well as ways to prevent their entry.


90. The Committee believes that the matters considered in this Report raise important questions of policy and principle to which the attention of the House should be drawn, and we make this Report to the House for debate.

40   Thus, after the likely first wave of enlargement the EU might find that it has some 150,000 citizens of Ukrainian ethnic origin. Alongside the 10 million Hungarians who will be able to claim EU citizenship there will be some 3 million more ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary and outside the EU. Back

41   See our Report, Enlargement of the EU: Progress and Problems, 21st Report 1998-99, HL Paper 118. Back

42   The French Presidency has proposed several new initiatives in the immigration field-for example a "Proposal for the adoption of a Council Directive concerning the harmonisation of financial penalties imposed on carriers transporting into the territory of the Member States third country nationals lacking the documents necessary for admission" (OJ C 269/8, 20.09.2000). It is fair to say that the emphasis of these initiatives is on the control and prevention, rather than the management, of immigration. Back

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