EU border unit in the works

The EU yesterday took a step toward establishing a common agency for guarding borders and deporting illegal immigrants. The Commission adopted a proposal by Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino for a European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders. The service is to coordinate cooperation by member states in monitoring borders, maritime borders and airports and will train key staff of national services in common procedures to be passed on to their own personnel. The agency will also provide help, by offering advice or equipment, to countries facing emergencies. The service is expected to start operating by 2005 with a staff of 30 and budget of 6 million euros that year and 10 million euros for 2006. Two centers aimed at guarding the EU’s maritime borders will complement the agency and may be set up in Spain and Greece. EU interior ministers will discuss the proposal this month.