Some media organisations have released the report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the misconduct of several individuals employed by the Agency in relation to Frontex operational activities in Greece in 2020. The report provides a snapshot of a series of events that transpired from spring to late autumn in 2020 in the context of alleged violations of Fundamental Rights.
Aside from findings on serious misbehaviour of these individuals, the report identifies three key issues. Firstly, the Fundamental Rights Officer was prevented from accessing operational information, which is contrary to the provisions of the 2019 Regulation of the European Border and Coast Guard. Secondly, the Fundamental Rights Officer was not assigned as case-handler for reports on serious incidents with alleged violations of Fundamental Rights. Thirdly, staff doing their job, assuming responsibility, following procedure and reporting these types of serious incidents to the hierarchy, were blatantly ignored by individuals who have been investigated by OLAF.
These were practices of the past.
As a means of systematically addressing shortcomings, the Agency and its Management Board have agreed to take a number of remedial measures, addressing among others the above-mentioned findings. For example, triggered by the preliminary findings of the Working Group on Fundamental Rights and Legal Operational Aspects of Operations in the Aegean Sea, the Agency adopted a decision in January 2021 on a procedure to assess the need to trigger Article 46 of the Regulation in cases where suspected violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations are of a serious nature or are likely to persist. July 2022 further saw the adoption of a decision by the Management Board on the obligations of the Management Board and Executive Director to inform the Consultative Forum on the follow-up of its recommendations and to action the recommendations of the Fundamental Rights Officer.
Following the amendment of the reporting procedure on serious incidents in April 2021 – another result of the findings of the Working Group, which enables the Fundamental Rights Officer to get access to all necessary information in relation to serious incidents and to be automatically assigned as case-handler for those on alleged violations of Fundamental Rights – the Agency will by the end of October 2022 make the procedure more robust. In addition, the Greek authorities have together with the Agency over the course of the late summer of 2022 established an action plan to right the wrongs of the past and present, and to engage in Structured Dialogue, bringing the Fundamental Rights Officers on both sides to the table, while enabling interaction both the political and practitioner levels on operational issues.
The Agency takes the findings of investigations, audits and other forms of scrutiny seriously and uses them as opportunities to make changes for the better. It is committed to deliver a well-functioning and legally compliant Agency that adheres to the best practices of good governance. In troubled times as the once Europe and its neighbours are facing right now, this is more important than ever. As has been demonstrated since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Agency has been able to reinforce the authorities of Member States at the external borders by re-deploying the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps at short notice, sometimes in a matter of days, to deal with the increasingly complex situation at the external borders, which sees escalated instrumentalization of migrants, energy and food. This shows the added value that the Agency brings to Member States and the Agency intends to continue to hone its ability to support when they need it the most.