EU negotiates with the Western Balkans to enhance border management

Frontex; Photo: EU Delegation to Serbia

The European Union said it struck a deal on 18 July with Macedonia to deploy border guards to the non-EU Balkan countries to help cope with any migrant surges, reports EURACTIV. Serbia and Bosnia are expected to follow, with negotiations underway in both countries.

“The ongoing migratory and security challenges have demonstrated that they can only be tackled through a joint and cross-border approach, and the Western Balkans have been and continue to be quintessential partners in this endeavour”, wrote in an opinion piece for Serbian and Bosnian media Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

“Today we are at the start of another important chapter in our shared history, particularly when it comes to mobility and migration – and managing this together”, emphasised Avramopoulos, referring to the negotiations for a status agreement between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina on actions carried out by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).

“Once this agreement is reached and finalised, border guards deployed at your borders will be entitled to perform border checks at border crossing points together with your national border guards. They will also patrol along the border for border surveillance, and technical equipment could also be used. This agreement will bring significant added value in terms of both strengthening border management and combating irregular migration and smuggling of migrants through the region”, Avramopoulos explains.

The first round of negotiations between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina took place on 9 July, with the parties finding common ground for all major issues, claims Avramopoulos. Negotiations are simultaneously taking place in Serbia.

Dimitris Avramopoulos; Photo: EU

According to EURACTIV, the agreement already reached with Macedonia will be signed formally at a later date, once it clears legal hurdles and is endorsed by the European Parliament.

“This agreement will allow the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to fully exercise its potential, reacting swiftly to migratory challenges and protecting our common borders,” Avramopoulos said in a statement.

He also reminded that stronger border management goes hand in hand with visa-free mobility, which comes with both rights and responsibilities.

“The recently approved European travel Information and Authorisation System will also contribute to safeguarding visa-free travel for bona-fide travellers and detecting those that pose a threat or an irregular migration risk before they even travel”, he wrote.

“Now more than ever, the EU and the Western Balkans are solidifying their common history, building towards an even more shared and prosperous future. Intensified cooperation on migration, mobility, borders as well as on countering terrorism and fighting organised crime will be the essential parameters of a partnership that is much wider and much deeper”, concludes Avramopoulos in his opinion piece.