TIRANA – The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) launched its first fully – fledged joint operation outside the European Union, deploying 50 officers with 16 patrol cars and one thermo-vision van from 12 EU Member States to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime, on Tuesday.
The launch took place in Tirana, Albania, in the presence of Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Albanian Minister of Interior Sandër Lleshaj, EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
“We can only effectively deal with the many challenges at our borders if we work together across borders,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
“Border guards from all around Europe will work shoulder-to-shoulder with their Albanian colleagues at Albania’s border with Greece. I am proud that Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has once again delivered by launching its first joint operation outside the European Union, here in Albania,” Leggeri added.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said that with the first ever deployment of European Border and Coast Guard teams outside of the EU, the Union is opening an entirely new chapter in cooperation on migration and border management with Albania and with the whole Western Balkan region.
“This is a real game changer and a truly historical step, bringing this region closer to the EU by working together in a coordinated and mutually supportive way on shared challenges such as better managing migration and protecting our common borders,” says Avramopoulos.
The operation marks a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkan partners.
It follows the completion of the Status Agreement on border cooperation between the European Union and Albania that came into force at the beginning of this month. It is the first agreement of this kind with a neighbouring non-EU country and the EU.
The main aim of the operation is to control migratory flows, to tackle cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and to enhance European cooperation at the land border between Albania and Greece.
The officers and the equipment taking part in the Frontex operation will be posted at Albania’s borders with Greece to support local authorities with border surveillance and border checks, including checking documents, as well as assisting in determining the nationality of migrants. The operational plan was consulted with Greece.
As a general rule, the officers deployed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will perform all those activities in cooperation with and in the presence of Albanian officers.
This will be complemented by training activities to develop regional border control capacities and by the exchange of operational information, professional experiences and best practices.
At the start of the operation, the officers deployed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency have been provided by Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia.