EU border patrol in the works

BRUSSELS – The European Commission is working toward establishing a European border patrol force within the next five years, as part of a general strategy of strengthening the EU’s domestic security. The proposal, presented by Commission President Romano Prodi and Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vittorino in Brussels yesterday, will be one of Greece’s priorities during its presidency of the EU in the first half of next year. Greece has demanded such a system for several years, as a way of enhancing the country’s security and protecting its territorial integrity. On a broader European level, this also coincides with the prominence given to the issue of security in the EU following the success of extreme right-wingers in France and other European countries, whose arguments have been fueled by the large numbers of illegal immigrants. The Commission’s plan provides for the transfer of funds between the 15 member states, through the EU budget, so that the burden will be shared out more equitably. Richer countries with less of a problem will supply funds to countries on the outlying reaches of the union. In other words, countries like Greece will benefit, with funds for the modernization of surveillance mechanisms on its borders, something that the national budget would not be able to afford. Furthermore, a European Border Guard will be set up within five years, drawing its personnel from member states. The force’s members will undergo the same training, have the same equipment and form teams in common. They will guard borders and entry points such as airports. Within this year, existing national border guards are to intensify their cooperation.