The European Union and Albania have signed a new agreement on operational cooperation for border management with the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), with the agreement being signed by representatives of all three: the Council, the EU Commission and the Albanian government.
According to a press release by the EU commission, strengthening operational cooperation between the Western Balkan countries and Frontex will help in managing irregular migration and border crossing while ensuring security at the external borders
The new agreement will include the updated status from 2019 and also allow the deployment of Frontex Standing Corps officers at the borders between Albania and the remaining Western Balkan countries.
The agreement is a deliverable of the EU Action Plan on the Western Balkans. Strengthened operational cooperation between Western Balkan partners and Frontex will contribute to addressing irregular migration and cross border crime and further enhance security at the EU’s external borders.
Once the agreement is signed, it can be applied provisionally upon agreement of the Albanian Parliament, while the final conclusion of the agreement has to receive the consent of the European Parliament and a Council decision. In addition, it has to conclude the final ratification processes on behalf of the Albanian government.
The signature took place in the margins of the Berlin Process meeting of Interior Ministers, which was held in Tirana and hosted by the Albanian Interior Minister, Taulant Balla.
Ministers from Western Balkans partners, several EU Ministers, representatives of EU Agencies, the United Kingdom, as well as international organisations, participated and had the chance to exchange their thoughts on integrated border management, cooperation to fight organised crime as well as discuss cybersecurity, which is threatening these countries’ security.
The move follows a surge in the number of people irregularly passing the country, with the Western Balkan route being one of the most active ones. Around 52,232 irregular border crossings were recorded throughout this route between January and July, indicating that there were 26 per cent fewer than in the previous year.
However, the Central Mediterranean route remains the most active one as it rose by 155 per cent in popularity for incoming migrants. More specifically, 89,047 people reached Europe through this route.
Increased migratory pressure on this route can be related to phenomena like smugglers offering lower prices for migrants departing from Libya and Tunisia amid fierce competition among criminal groups.
Unfortunately, the sea crossings remain extremely dangerous. According to IOM data, more than 2,060 people went missing in the Mediterranean between January and July, with the vast majority on the Central Mediterranean route.
As of July, the Central Mediterranean route witnessed 23,388 border crossings, while the Western Balkan route received 13,653 migrants.