Volt declines the referendum on Frontex

Switzerland is voting on whether to support the EU's decision to increase the budget for the border protection agency FRONTEX.

Apr 5, 2022

Switzerland contributed to the funding of Frontex since 2009 due to its entrance into the Schengen area on 12 December 2008, a decision that came after a referendum on 5 June 2005. Frontex is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, created in 2004 to support border states to protect Schengen’s external boundaries and is an essential tool in prevention of illegal affairs (e.g. smuggling and human trafficking) but also allows to save lives thank to patrol action in border region (land and sea).

The migrant crisis in 2015-2016 revealed the limits of the agency, whereupon the European Commission decided to extend its mandate to transform Frontex into an official European Border and Coast Guard Agency. The new mandate and responsibilities required the recruitment of more officers (10’000 in 2027) and a budget increase, paid directly by Schengen member states, Switzerland included. A very controversial aspect of the agency emerged during the 2015 crisis is the report of illegal actions operated by Frontex agents, documented by Amnesty International at the Greek border. Illegal actions include push back of asylum seekers to Turkey and arbitrary detention.

The committee “NO FRONTEX” doesn't accept the conduct and role of the agency, therefore is willing to ask Swiss voters to put a veto on the Swiss funding of Frontex. As Volt we understand and embrace the motivation of the committee, but don’t agree on the decision. It must be remarked that the Swiss vote will not result in a Frontex dismantlement, but a mere exit of Swiss officers from the agency. The committee says the vote will be a message to Frontex and European authorities to begin a real reform process. We cannot tolerate violation in terms of international law and human rights, and we agree a solution has to be found by a radical reform of Frontex, which is actually taking place. Frontex is going to empower the role of independent observer to monitor agent operational sites, increasing the transparency and reliability of the agency. Leaving Frontex will prevent Switzerland from playing its role of moderator and observer, losing its capability to drive a real systematic reform.

In addition, we don’t want to risk worsening the relations between Switzerland and the European Union, already at their lowest level. Funding of Frontex is directly bonded to Schengen membership, which allows a free movement of people and goods between countries. The exit of Switzerland can be avoided in case of a new agreement, but as a Pan European party we must preserve and increase cooperation with European institutions, following the idea of mutual assistance and share of responsibility. Therefore, we invite the Swiss to vote YES to Frontex budget increase and participation.