Plans to set up an integrated EU border management system, with a flagship European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) agency, bringing together Frontex and national border management authorities, were endorsed by the European Parliament on Wednesday.
Those plans would enable extra border guard teams to be rapidly deployed to EU countries whose external borders are under pressure. National authorities would still manage their borders on a day-to-day basis, but could seek help from the new agency in a crisis.
A total of 481 MEPs in the 751-seat parliament voted in favour of the adoption of the draft regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
EP Rapporteur Artis Pabriks said the document had an exceptional value for the European Union.
I am very happy with the outcome of the vote in the Parliament. I believe this law has a great value for the EU, notably in the current times, Pabriks told a news conference after the vote.
The law provides important additional assistance to countries in case of pressure on borders, such as a migrant wave, Pabriks said, stressing that the EBCG would in no way be a threat to national sovereignty.
The EBCG agency will not have its own border guards but will be able to call on a rapid reaction pool of 1,500 border guards to be nominated by member states, including Croatia, which will deploy 65 border and coast guard troops.
The agency's annual budget would amount to approximately EUR 300 million. By comparison, the Frontex agency budget amounted to EUR 142 million.
Croatian MEP Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party worked on the draft proposal as a shadow rapporteur.
Picula asked that the agency services also be available to EU member countries that are not yet members of the Schengen Area, including Croatia.
"Therefore, I welcome the compromise to include Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria because Schengen should not be saved by leaving out member-states that are not yet entirely part of the Schengen Area with the help of wire fences and directives," Picula said.
The law on the European Border and Coast Guard is yet to be confirmed by the Council of the EU.