EU border guards start patroling in Albania

First ever joint operation outside the Union successfully launched

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in cooperation with the Albanian authorities, launched the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country, EU press service reported. As of 22 May, teams from the agency will be deployed together with Albanian border guards at the Greek-Albanian border to strengthen border management and enhance security at the EU's external borders.

The launch event took place in Albania'a capital city of Tirana, in the presence of Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, EBCG Director Fabrice Leggeri, Albanian PM Edi Rama and Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj. This operation marks a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and its Western Balkan partners, and is yet another step towards the full operationalisation of the agency.

“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,” Avramopoulos said. “Today we mark a milestone for our agency and the wider cooperation between the European Union and Albania,” Leggeri added.

While Albania remains ultimately responsible for the protection of its borders, the European Border and Coast Guard is able to lend both technical and operational support and assistance. The European Border and Coast Guard teams will be able to support the Albanian border guards in performing border checks at crossing points, for example, and preventing unauthorised entries. All operations and deployments at the Albanian border with Greece will be conducted in full agreement with both the Albanian and Greek authorities.

At the start of the operation, the Agency will be deploying 50 officers, 16 patrol cars and 1 thermo-vision van from 12 Member States (Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia) to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime. Strengthened cooperation between priority third countries and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will contribute to the better management of irregular migration, further enhance security at the EU's external borders and strengthen the Agency's ability to act in the EU's immediate neighbourhood, while bringing that neighbourhood closer to the EU.

The status agreement negotiated with Albania and signed in October 2018 entered into force on 1 May 2019. 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.

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