BRUSSELS – The European Commission adopted the recommendation of the Council of the EU to approve the opening of negotiations on improved agreements on the status of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) with four Western Balkans countries, as well as a new aid package of 39.2 million euros to strengthen border management in the region, it was announced by the European External Action Service (EEAS), FoNet reported.
The approval refers to the borders between the EU and Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, including a package of assistance of 39.2 million euros within the Instrument for pre-accession assistance to strengthen border management in the Western Balkans.
With the support of Frontex, the Commission will strengthen the capacities of the Western Balkans countries in their management of migration, the fight against smuggling and providing security.
According to the current status agreements between Frontex and Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, the permanent corps can only be deployed at the borders of EU countries and without executive powers.
Under the new legal framework, the status agreement will allow Frontex permanent corps to be deployed in a third country and at the EU border and at borders with third countries, giving them executive powers.
The EEAS explains in the statement that this support is aimed at regional border management capacities mainly through the provision of specialized equipment.
These include mobile surveillance systems, drones, biometric devices, and training and support for establishing and operationalising national coordination centers. Support also covers the operationalization of migration facilities, including reception and detention facilities.
The package brings the total bilateral and regional support adopted in this area as part of pre-accession assistance to 171.7 million euros.
European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson emphasized that the European Union is committed to supporting the region and strengthening cooperation in migration management.
“We propose to negotiate status agreements under the new legal framework that would allow for the deployment of Frontex to all four partner countries with the full power of its mandate, to ensure that their borders continue to be respected and protected in line with European best practices,” Johansson stated.
The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, assessed that the package is timely because migration remains an area in which closer cooperation with the Western Balkan partners is needed.
He announced the intention of the European Commission to increase financing in the region by a total of 60 percent between 2021 and 2024, reaching at least 350 million euros for the region’s countries.