A Scandal at Frontex Raises Red Flags for the EU

A Scandal at Frontex Raises Red Flags for the EU
Fabrice Leggeri, the then-head of Frontex, arrives at a press conference at Frontex offices in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2016 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

If there were a contest for leaving office in the most undignified way possible, Fabrice Leggeri would surely be an odds-on favorite to win. After a long battle to hold onto his position as director of Frontex, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency, Leggeri was forced to resign on April 29 under murky circumstances.

Faced with accusations that he had covered up attempts by Greek coast guard units assisted by Frontex to “push back” rather than rescue refugees at sea, Leggeri had spent months engaged in desperate career maneuvers that had more than a passing resemblance to episodes of The Office. Since resigning, Leggeri has continued to lurk around Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, even sneaking into his old office at one point to do a Zoom conference with far-right European Parliament members, despite attempts by his successor, Aija Kalnaja, to effect a clean break from his legacy.

Institutions with vast power can be thrown into chaos through the habits and obsessions of those that work within them. Yet whether it is a minor scandal or grand blunder, a moment of political farce such as Leggeri’s recent display can still provide revealing insights into the geopolitical challenges facing the EU.

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