The European Commission is moving to take migration cooperation with Western Balkan nations to the next level, envisaging almost 40 million euros in support and a bigger role for the European border surveillance agency, Frontex, on the ground.
With this in mind, the Commission has sent a recommendation to member states to start talks with Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina on a stronger statute for Frontex, the Commission said in a press release on Tuesday.
European border guards are already present in Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, but the new statute would allow them to also become active on these countries’ borders with third countries and exercise executive powers there.
The Commission also wants such an agreement immediately with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In addition, the Commission has decided to allocate €39.2 million for border management in the region, as part of the support these countries enjoy on their path to EU membership.
This allocation will cover, among other things, the purchase of mobile surveillance systems, drones and biometric equipment, as well as reception infrastructure.
Given the increased migration pressure in the area, the EU is focusing on empowering border surveillance, fighting smuggling networks and empowering return policies from the area, Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said.
It is therefore wants to provide more political and financial assistance, increasing funding to its partners in the Balkans by 60%- to at least 350 million euros, between 2021 and 2024, he added.
The announcement came ahead of a multi-day visit by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who will travel to the region on Wednesday evening.