In recent days, some false and misleading accusation against Frontex in relation to the agency’s contacts with industry representatives have been made. We would like to set the record straight.
The so-called “secret” documents cited by a German satirical TV show were provided to researchers by Frontex following a Public Access to Documents (PAD) request, demonstrating the agency’s transparency.
According to the mandate of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, one of our main functions is to “participate in the development and management of research and innovation activities relevant for the control of the external borders.” This has been part of the Frontex mandate since 2016 (Regulation 2016/1624, art. 37) and reinforced in 2019 (Regulation 2019/1896, art. 66). Strengthening this role, the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) and Frontex agreed a year ago for the agency to provide its expertise in the area of border security research and innovation to assist the European Commission in supporting the development of state of the art technology for the border and coast guard community (Memorandum of Understanding signed on 5 February 2020 between Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and Director General of Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs Monique Pariat).
The main format for interaction with the industry are Frontex Industry Days, which are organised on a regular basis. These events bring together representatives of the industry, researchers and representatives of Member States to explore a specific topic related to new technologies and innovations for the border guard community. Frontex and national authorities decide on the area of technological innovation currently of interest, after which an open call is made to industry. These events have been held at the Frontex headquarters, although over the last year the agency has shifted to a virtual format.
The Industry Days are well publicised on the Frontex website and its social media channels. Many documents, information on participation and results of the Industry Days can be found in the website of Frontex, open for consultation to any interested party. Frontex has released numerous documents related to these events to the public and, as already indicated, as part of Public Access to Documents requests, demonstrating our commitment to transparency.
The Industry Days provide a transparent platform to channel most contacts with the industry, replacing most bilateral contacts. They do not provide any opportunities for companies to lobby their interests. When companies interact with Frontex as part of the Industry Days, they do so in their research capacity.
The Industry Days are in principle open to application to any industry/company, subject to the application and selection procedure that Frontex applies. Nevertheless, Frontex always considers the track record related to fundamental rights of the participants and make sure we only deal with reputable suppliers.
Frontex invites representatives of border and law enforcement authorities from Member States to these events to learn about the latest technologies and innovations in their field of interest. The agency also regularly invites representatives of the European Commission at expert levels to Industry Days as well as other research and innovation meetings and events, along with EU agencies. Other participants have included representatives of international organisations such as UNHCR and IOM, depending on the thematic focus of specific events.
Even if contacts with the industry are channelled through Industry Days, Frontex is currently developing a transparency register to disclose any meeting between its top officials and third parties related to procurements and tenders for services, equipment or outsourced projects and studies, as required by the agency’s new regulation (2019/1896).