The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex in cooperation with the Albanian authorities, launched the first ever joint operation outside the European Union. This marks a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan partners. The event 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.
The joint operation aims at controlling migratory flows, tackling cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and enhancing European cooperation at the land border between Albania and Greece.
Teams of border guards from Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia will work together with their Albanian colleagues at the Greek-Albanian border to strengthen border management and enhance security at the EU’s external borders, in full agreement with all concerned countries. They will support local authorities in border surveillance and border checks as well as training activities to develop regional border control capacities and by the exchange of operational information, professional experiences and best practices.
“With the first ever deployment of European Border and Coast Guard teams outside of the EU, we are opening an entirely new chapter in our 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,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship highlighted.
The EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini had also recently acknowledged Albania’s role in the region as a constructive partner and Albania’s continuous, 100% alignment to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. “We also share the goal of further consolidating the security cooperation between Albania and the European Union. Over the past months Albania has demonstrated that it remains a credible partner in this field also. A Cooperation Agreement was signed with Eurojust and the agreement with our European Boarder and Coast Guard Agency has become operational, the first such agreement with a non-European Union country”, she said. “Albania has also been a frontrunner in defining priorities for a bilateral action plan to strengthen the fight that we share against terrorism and violent extremism.”
The joint operation with Albania marks a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan partners. Similar agreements were initialled with North Macedonia (July 2018), Serbia (September 2018), Bosnia and Herzegovina (January 2019) and Montenegro (February 2019) and are pending finalisation.
Albania is an EU candidate country since June 2014. The country has made progress towards meeting the political criteria for membership and, overall, steady progress continued in the five key priorities (reforming the judiciary and the public administration, fighting corruption and organised crime, and protecting human rights). The European Commission on 17 April 2018 recommended opening EU accession negotiations with Albania, while the Council in June 2018 agreed to respond positively to the progress made by Albania and set out the path towards opening the accession negotiations in June 2019.