EU border police force Frontex has reinstated its demand we pay € 10,520.76 in legal fees, setting Monday 4 October 2021 as a final deadline and threatening forceful recovery in case of non-payment.
By doing so, Frontex is choosing to disregard the European Parliament, which twice this year (in April and again in June) called on Frontex to drop its demand for legal fees. The Parliament had warned Frontex legal threats like these create a chilling effect on civil society, and had instructed the border agency to refrain from seeking payment, in our case and ever again in the future.
The Parliament’s instructions, however, seem of little importance to Frontex, who has decided to push for the payment of the legal fees regardless.
Frontex is demanding from us the payment of € 10,520.76 in legal fees after we lost our lawsuit against the agency, in which we seeked disclosure of the vessels Frontex deployed in the Central Mediterranean in the summer of 2017. Frontex had initially demanded €23,700 from us, but earlier this year they were forced to reduce the sum by more than half after the EU General Court ruled Frontex’s initial legal bill had been excessive and unjustified.
Turning a deaf ear
The European Parliament’s is not the only voice Frontex has ignored throughout the battle for the payment of legal fees. Back in 2020, over 87,000 citizens called on the border agency to drop their demand. Over 40 human and civil rights organisations also called on the agency to drop the legal bill and cease all intimidatory actions.
Yet Frontex has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to the multiple concerns raised by citizens, civil society and public representatives.
This behavior by the border agency falls, however, under an increasingly-familiar pattern, whereby Frontex disregards any call for accountability when being accused of wrongdoing.
€ 10,520.76 to billionaire-agency Frontex
Frontex’s decision to step over the European Parliament, and their threat of forceful recovery in case of non-payment, leave us no option: we will have to pay Frontex the money they demand from us.
However, a bank transfer feels too impersonal and intransparent to us. If Frontex wishes to intimidate activists, the very least they should do is look us in the eye when they make their legal threats.
This is why, on Monday 4 October, we tried delivering € 10,520.76 to Frontex in person at their offices in Brussels. As you can see on our Twitter account Frontex did not accept the cash payment. Instead, they evacuated their offices, leaving no one behind.
Photos: Jérôme Peraya / Krasnyi Collective, CC BY-NC 2.0
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