- Frontex is the European border security force. In 2019, Frontex regulation was extended to cover a wider range of operations.
- Frontex plays a key role in the implementation of ETIAS for travel to Europe in 2023.
The European Union issued a new regulation in 2019 to strengthen the European Borders and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).
The Frontex regulation for 2019 stated that the agency would gain 10,000 additional border and coast guard officers.
Frontex is currently recruiting. In January 2022, approximately 200 basic level officers and 100 intermediate level officers began training.
One of the primary goals of the European Border and Coast Guard regulation was to provide greater assistance to EU national authorities in border control and migration management.
Below is more information on how Frontex operations improve EU border security.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF FRONTEX?
Frontex is an acronym for Frontières extérieures (French for “external borders”).
The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at External Borders was established in 2004. Frontex is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.
Frontex’s mission is to improve the integrated management of the EU’s and the Schengen Area’s external borders, as well as to coordinate border control efforts.
In response to the 2015-2016 European migrant crisis, the European Commission proposed extending Frontex’s operations on December 15, 2015. The proposal was approved by the European Council, and Frontex was renamed the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
On October 6, 2016, Frontex began its new role, working in collaboration with Schengen Area border and coast guards, at Bulgaria’s external border with Turkey.
Frontex’s budget has also grown significantly in recent years. From 143 million euros in 2015 to over 750 million euros in 2022.
The 2019 regulation calls for 10,000 European border and coast guard agency employees by 2027.
HOW THE 2019 FRONTEX MANDATE AFFECTS THE EU
The Frontex regulation of 2019 has aided in the integration of national border and coast guard authorities with Frontex personnel.
Former Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri stated that the new border force would be a “daily partner” to national authorities and would develop long-term border management capabilities rather than relying on crisis management techniques.
Frontex’s ultimate goal is to ensure that Europe’s external borders are well-functioning, that fair laws are followed, and that EU citizens’ security is improved.
Frontex’s access to some European Union security systems enables the agency to share relevant information and risk analysis, as well as assist Schengen Area countries in anticipating external border challenges.
KEY ASPECTS OF THE 2019 EUROPEAN BORDER AND COAST GUARD AGENCY REGULATION
In addition, the Frontex regulation specified the following actions:
- Increased activity outside the EU
- Upgraded management system
- Continue to build resilience at European borders
- Continue to fight cross-border crime
- Support the reintegration of returnees in non-EU countries
- Remain committed to respecting fundamental rights
CASE STUDY: FRONTEX PREVENTS CROSS-BORDER CRIME IN EUROPE
Frontex and Austrian national authorities conducted an international operation targeting organised crime in central and southeastern Europe in September 2021.
The EMPACT Joint Action Day operation aimed to prevent people smuggling, human trafficking, and document fraud.
Frontex led the operation, coordinating with participating European countries’ police officers and border guards.
In less than a week:
- 144 suspected people smugglers were arrested
- 76 counterfeit documents were detected
- 13 cars identified as being used for criminal activity
This operation demonstrates Frontex’s critical role in ensuring EU border security.
FRONTEX AND ETIAS TO IMPROVE EU BORDER SECURITY
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be in charge of establishing and operating the European Travel Information and Authorisation System’s Central Unit (ETIAS).
ETIAS is yet another measure to strengthen EU border security. It will be implemented fully after a grace period in November 2023.
ETIAS will screen visa-exempt travellers before they enter the EU with the assistance of Frontex.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF FRONTEX AND THE ETIAS CENTRAL UNIT?
Frontex will manage the ETIAS Central Unit, which will have several important functions, including:
- Verify travel authorisation applications in case of a match in one of the security databases
- Conducting audits on the processing of applications, in particular regarding privacy and data protection
- Checking data is stored correctly
- Informing the public about ETIAS
The ETIAS Central Unit has trained the first group of operators who will be in charge of overseeing the operation of the ETIAS travel authorization. Frontex intends to train another 200 ETIAS personnel over the next two years.
FRONTEX AND THE ENTRY/EXIT SYSTEM (EES)
To apply for ETIAS, travellers must complete the ETIAS application form online. When the travel authorization is approved, it is linked to the passport and can be verified when the passport is scanned at an external Schengen border.
A new system, the Entry/Exit System, will be introduced to work with ETIAS to help protect the EU’s external borders (EES). This system will track the arrival and departure of non-EU nationals who do not reside in the Schengen Area.
Frontex will assist immigration officers in implementing the EES at border crossings.
FRONTEX AND THE PROTECTION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
Frontex has measures in place to ensure that it meets its responsibilities for the protection of fundamental rights while performing its duties.
Frontex must abide by the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
All European Border and Coast Guard Agency employees receive basic human rights training. Legislative procedures ensure that all requirements are met.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM FRONTEX CONSULTATIVE FORUM 8TH ANNUAL REPORT
Frontex’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights has released its annual report for 2020.
The report presents 2020 observations and recommendations aimed at strengthening fundamental rights and increasing transparency.
Frontex Consultative Forum recommendations include:
- Frontex support of EU countries
- Child protection and safeguarding
- Aerial surveillance
- Return operations
- Frontex training activities
PART OF THE 2022 FRONTEX BUDGET DEPENDS ON MEETING CONDITIONS
Members of the European Parliament have requested that a portion of the Frontex budget for 2022 be frozen and only released if the agency meets certain criteria.
MEPs have proposed that the entire €757,793,708 be made available only if the agency:
- Recruits 20 fundamental rights officers and 3 deputy executive directors
- Establishes a mechanism for reporting serious incidents at external EU borders
- Sets up a fundamental rights monitoring system
Simultaneously, MEPs acknowledged the agency’s efforts to address improvements based on a Parliament report due in spring 2021.