EU unveils plans for new border force

It is envisioned the border unit would only be used in "exceptional situations"

EU unveils plans for new border force

Refugees wait behind a fence to pass the borders from the northern Greek town of Idomeni, to southern Macedonia (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

The EU has unveiled plans for a new border force with a "right to intervene" without a country's consent.

The 1,500-strong unit would step in when countries failed to control their borders, when they were overwhelmed or when they were simply "unwilling" to act.

Its possible creation comes as one million mainly Syrian refugees and migrants are expected to arrive in the EU this year.

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said the migrant crisis had "exposed clear weaknesses and gaps in existing mechanisms".

"Therefore, it is now time to move to a truly integrated system of border management," he said.

Mr Timmermans stressed that the force, which will replace the maligned Frontex agency, would be used only in "exceptional situations".

Although the UK is not part of the passport-free Schengen zone where the guards will operate, it is being reorted that Britain will contribute to the force.

UKIP has described the idea as a "full-frontal attack on national sovereignty", while Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said having a force independent of member states would be "shocking".

Under the blueprint, the agency will be able to carry out surveillance operations alongside the European Fisheries Control Agency and European Maritime Safety Agency.

This may include the use of unmanned drones in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a controversial plan to relocate refugees around the EU to relieve the pressure on Greece and Italy has so far shared out just a few hundred of a planned 160,000.

Frontex has also revealed that the number of migrants arriving in Greece fell from 150,000 in October to 108,000 last month as poor weather kicked in.