The Peculiar Nature of EU Home Affairs Agencies in Migration Control: Beyond Accountability versus Autonomy?

In: European Journal of Migration and Law
View More View Less
  • 1 Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Place du Congrès 1, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium Jean Monnet Chair, University of Cologne, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



This article analyses the development paths and practices of three EU Home Affairs agencies: Frontex, Europol and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Particular attention is given to those tasks and forms of inter-agency cooperation raising fundamental rights sensitivities in the scope of migration controls. The article argues that the specific Home Affairs focus of these agencies and their ways of working, including the use of ‘experimental governance’ strategies, poses particular challenges to individuals on the move, specifically in relation to their right to an effective remedy. These findings are linked to the academic debate on the balance between accountability and autonomy of EU Agencies. Due to their peculiar nature, evidenced by several cross-cutting commonalities potentially impacting on basic rights of individuals, we argue that this balance metaphor is not appropriate for these Agencies; instead higher standards of accountability should apply with closer on-going control over their activities.

  • 2)

    J.J. Rijpma (2012), ‘Hybrid agencification in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and its inherent tensions: The case of Frontex’, in: M. Busuioc, M. Groenleer and J. Trondal (eds), The agency phenomenon in the European Union: Emergence, institutionalisation and everyday decision-making, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 84–102.

  • 3)

    For instance: C. Curtin (2009), Executive Power of the European Union: Law, Practices and the Living Constitution, Oxford: University Press; R. Dehousse, ‘Delegation of powers in the European Union: The need for a multi-principals model’, 31 West European Politics (2008), 789–805.

  • 5)

    Busuioc, Curtin and Groenleer (2011), p. 849.

  • 6)

    Bovens (2007), p. 450.

  • 10)

    See Baldaccini (2010).

  • 12)

    See Carrera, S. and Guild, E. (2010), ‘Joint Operation RABIT 2010’ – FRONTEX Assistance to Greece’s Border with Turkey: Revealing the Deficiencies of Europe’s Dublin Asylum System, Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (34), Brussels: CEPS.

  • 26)

    M. Shapiro (2011), ‘Independent Agencies’, in: P. Craig and G. De Búrca, G. (eds), The Evolution of EU Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 111–120. To give some examples of ‘soft law’: Frontex issued a Code of Conduct for its operations and builds a common curriculum for border guards (resp. Articles 2a and 5 of the new Frontex Regulation) and EASO is also mandated to give trainings to officials (Article 6 EASO Regulation).

  • 30)

    Busuioc (2010), p. 189.

  • 34)

    Rijpma (2012), pp. 13 and 19.

  • 36)

    ECtHR Grand Chamber, 23 February 2012, Hirsi and others v. Italy, Application No. 27765/09.

  • 39)

    ECtHR, 21 January 2011, MSS v. Belgium and Greece, Application No. 30696/09, paras 233, 234, 263, 264, 366−368; see also S. Troller (2011), On the borders of legality – Why Frontex forces should stop filling Greek jails with asylum seekers, New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, available online at

  • 41)

    House of Lords (2008), Europol: Coordinating the Fight against Serious and Organised Crime, 29th Report, Session 2007–2008, Select Committee on the European Union, London: The Stationary Office, p. 58.

  • 42)

    Europol (2011), Europol Review: General Report on Europol Activities 2010, The Hague: Europol, 3 May, p. 14.

  • 52)

    See, for instance, E. Brouwer (2010), ‘Extraterritorial Migration Control and Human Rights: Preserving the Responsibility of the EU and its Member States’, in B. Ryan and V. Mitsilegas (eds), Extraterritorial Immigration Control: Legal Challenges, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 199–228.

  • 60)

    Europol (2011), EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, TE-SAT 2011, The Hague, 19 April.

  • 61)

    J. Parkin (2012), EU Home Affairs Agencies and the Construction of Internal Security, Papers in Liberty and Security Series (53), Brussels: CEPS; see also Pollack and Slominski (2009), p. 908.

  • 64)

    D. Bigo (1996), Police en Réseaux: L’expérience européenne, Presses de Sciences Po, Paris, pp. 258–266.

  • 67)

    See for instance: Frontex, Programme of Work 2009, p. 24.

  • 70)

    Frontex (2011), Fundamental Rights Strategy, Warsaw, March.

  • 71)

    Resp. UNHCR (2008), UNHCR agreement with Frontex, Press Release, Geneva, 17 June ( For an example of one of the outcomes of this cooperation, see UNHCR (2011), Protection Training Manual for European Border and Entry Officials, Geneva, 1 April, available online at See also: Cooperation Agreement between Frontex and the FRA, 26 May 2010, available online at

  • 82)

    See Baldaccini (2010), p. 230; see also Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Briefing on the Commission proposal for a Regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004 establishing Frontex, London and Brussels, September 2010.

  • 83)

    Frontex (2011), Hermes 2011 starts tomorrow in Lampedusa, News Release, Warsaw, 19 February, available online at; Frontex (2011), Hermes 2011 up and running, News Release, Warsaw, 22 February 2011, available online at

  • 86)

    See J. Shenker, ‘Aircraft carrier left us to die, say migrants’, The Guardian, 8 May 2011, available online at; and ‘Libyan migrants’ boat deaths to be investigated by Council of Europe’, The Guardian, 9 May 2011, available online at See also: Reuters, ‘NATO, France deny failing to save Libyan migrants’, 9 May 2011, available online at

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 87)

    T. Strik (2012), Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible?, Report for the Parliamentary Assembly, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Council of Europe. See also L. den Hertog (2012), Two Boats in the Mediterranean and their Unfortunate Encounters with Europe’s Policy towards People on the Move, Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (48), Brussels: CEPS.

  • 89)

    Refer to S. Carrera and B. Petkova (2012), ‘The role and potential of civil society and human rights organizations through third party interventions before the European Courts: The case of the EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’, in: M. Dawson, E. Muir and B. De Witte (eds), Judicial Activism at the Court of Justice: Causes, Responses and Solutions, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming; See also S. Carrera, M. De Somer and B. Petkova (2012), The Court of Justice of the European Union as a Fundamental Rights Tribunal, Papers in Liberty and Security in Europe (49), Brussels: CEPS.

  • 90)

    See, e.g., European Ombudsman (2012) and UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur (Mr Crépeau) on the human rights of migrants – Regional study: management of the external borders of the EU and its impact on the human rights of migrants, 23rd session, Doc. A/HRC/23/46, Geneva, 24.04.2013.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 542 236 15
Full Text Views 291 52 6
PDF Downloads 102 39 5