Access to Documents and the EU Agency Frontex: Growing Pains or Outright Obstruction?
Forthcoming, (In)visible European Government: Critical Approaches to Transparency as an Ideal and a Practice (Routledge), edited by Maarten Hillebrandt, Päivi Leino-Sandberg, and Ida Koivisto.
22 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2022 Last revised: 12 Apr 2022
Date Written: December 21, 2021
A series of recent high-publicity scandals and inquiries have thrown the limelight on the functioning of the European Border and Coastguard Agency, more commonly known as Frontex. Over the course of 15 years, it grew from a small agency with a budget of just over EUR 19 million in its first full year of operation to a major actor in the EU’s border management policy with an over EUR 540 million budget and with staff that can exercise executive powers on the ground and carry firearms. In recent years, Frontex has increasingly come under scrutiny for the human rights impact of its activities its lack of accountability, in part due the secrecy surrounding the agency’s activities. This chapter explores Frontex’s implementation of the EU right of public access to documents. The analysis reveals that Frontex’s specific interpretation of the public access to documents regime is very restrictive, at times amounting to outright obstruction. Especially in light of the further growth Frontex is envisaged to undergo within the coming years, it is of crucial importance that its implementation of the public access documents regime is brought into full compliance, not just with the letter, but also the spirit, of the law.
Keywords: European law, Frontex, transparency, access to documents, proactive disclosure
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