This is the story of Luisa and Arne and how they tried to watch the watchers, a secretive, well-funded EU body, Frontex, in charge of policing Europe’s borders and saving lives at sea.
Luisa and Arne asked for very simple information – what type of boats does Frontex have in the Mediterranean, an area where human lives are needlessly lost every year and where NGOs are no longer welcome? Frontex repeatedly refused to give this information, so Luisa and Arne took them to court.
Not only did they not get an answer, they lost the case against Frontex and were dutifully sent a €24,000 bill for Frontex’s legal fees to be paid within two days. European public institutions almost never send legal bills to their citizens!
Luisa and Arne have a plan to spread their story across Europe. It will be so much more powerful if this isn’t just their struggle, but all of ours. All it takes is your signature to stand with Luisa and Arne, and let Frontex know Europeans don’t respond well to bullies.
The impact of the court case could in itself go much further than Luisa and Arne. They are the first to take Frontex to court as individuals — an act in itself very important.
It seems that individuals cannot challenge or ask public bodies in the courts for information without running the risk of financial ruin from a Court outcome. If Frontex becomes a precedent for legal challenges in the future then many more will end up in debt with tens of thousands of Euros in legal fees, and future corporate or government bodies may continue to work in clouds of secrecy.
We.Move has set up a petition calling on Frontex to withdraw it’s legal costs and provide transparency in dealing with information on it’s work.