May 11
2021

‘EU Migration Agencies: The Operation and Cooperation of Frontex, EASO and Europol’, published by Edward Elgar Publishing, is the newest member of the growing family of literature on EU agencies in the area of migration and asylum; a most welcome addition as it provides a comparative analysis.

There is a vast amount of literature concerning the accountability of EU agencies, especially coming from the fields of governance, European studies, and political science. This book is integrated in this literature, but examines issues of mandate, activities on the ground, and legality of conduct from a perspective of EU Constitutional Law.

It is based on thorough research and a solid empirical-legal methodology and offers a critical analysis that is at the same time appropriately nuanced.

Fernández-Rojo focuses on the development of the operational tasks and the interaction of Frontex, EASO and Europol. His research took place at a time of expansion of the legal mandates of the agencies and the findings have been evolving in real time, in parallel with developments in the law and on the ground.

The implementation of migration and border management as well as the proper functioning of the CEAS and the Schengen area are no longer exclusively the responsibility of Member States. A continual process of integration and European centralisation has afforded EU agencies a central role in this regard. Their mandates, capacity and de facto powers have been progressively growing, while their influence and operational role is multiplied via their cooperation in the hotspots.

This analysis becomes all the more relevant as the hotspot approach, originally designed as an exceptional measure to address the increased arrivals in the summer of 2015, obtains a more permanent status with the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

Focusing on the agencies’ operational role and their cooperation, the author contests arguments that they are merely technocratic coordinators. Fernández-Rojo notes the discrepancy between the narrative of a strictly coordinating and assisting role and the reality of their operational powers on the ground. He highlights the uncertainty caused by the fact that their legal mandates still need to catch up with their actual enforcement powers. Moreover, he comments on the legal uncertainty caused by this discrepancy and the lack of transparency, which makes it difficult to distinguish the actual degree of their discretion and factual effective control.

The book does not follow the traditional structure of comparative analysis, where separate chapters would be dedicated to the individual examination to each agency, followed by a synthesis chapter. In this book, the synthesis is present throughout. The four substantive chapters deal with all three agencies, examining them comparatively at every step of the way. The first two substantive chapters adopt a chronological order to highlight the progressive nature of the enhancement of their formal competences and de facto influence. They examine, first, the establishment and the initial mandate of the agencies, and second, the phase of their expansion following the political crisis around migration in 2015, which solidified the central role of Frontex, EASO, and Europol in the field. The following chapter focuses specifically on the inter-agency operational cooperation both formally and in practice, including the hotspot approach.

The book closes with an examination of what the agencies cannot do. It examines their limitations based on the EU doctrine of delegation of powers, which it considers inadequate to deal with the sui generis nature of the decentralised agencies of the AFSJ. The author finally affords attention to the internal administrative structures of the three agencies aiming at assessing the influence that Member States and civil society may exert upon them. Reflecting upon the agencies’ ever-expanding role, he examines how sovereign states may take back control and the potential for civil society to act as a counterbalance.

 

Mariana Gkliati is a Legal Researcher at Leiden University specialising in the legal responsibility of Frontex for human rights violations. She teaches at the University of London and the Migration Law Clinic of Roma Tre University. In a consultancy capacity, she has advised, trained and undertaken research for several national and international organisations.

 

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