INTERVIEW-Europe's Frontex to spend more in 2016 on border protection
By Jan Strupczewski and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS Dec 17 (Reuters) - The European Union's border agency Frontex will use its higher 2016 budget to deploy more border guards, buy equipment for registering refugees and lease planes and cars for patrols to help protect the bloc's external borders, its head said.
Boosting Frontex is a key element in the EU's response to the flood of refugees from the Middle East and Asia which have grown into Europe's worst migration crisis since World War Two.
But some of its new powers face stiff opposition from several EU members, especially the right to send Frontex border guards to a country deemed to be persistently failing to protect the bloc's external border, even without being invited.
Speaking as EU leaders arrived in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the crisis, Fabrice Leggeri praised a proposal by the bloc's executive European Commission this week to boost the powers of Frontex.
"For me it's a very positive proposal because it's in line with the needs we have and it's also in line with the reality," Leggeri told Reuters in an interview.
Under the plan, Frontex would be turned into the European Border and Coast Guard, with a two-fold increase in staff and funding worth 322 million euros by 2020, compared to 143 millions this year and 238 million due in 2016.
But border protection would remain chiefly a national responsibility. The new agency would still rely on EU capitals for contributions to a proposed pool of 1,500 border guards ready for quick deployment in any crisis spot.
Defending Frontex's new powers to send border guards to a country even without invitation, he said Frontex would not decide on such action by itself but have to get the green light from the European Commission Continued...