• European Border and Coast Guard: Launch of first ever joint operation outside the EU

      Today, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in cooperation with the Albanian authorities, is launching the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country. 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, in full agreement with all concerned countries. 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.

      The launch event is taking place in Tirana, Albania, in the presence of Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister and Sandër Lleshaj, Albanian Interior Minister.

      Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: "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.”

      Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said: “Today we mark a milestone for our agency and the wider cooperation between the European Union and Albania. We are launching the first fully fledged joint operation outside the European Union to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime.”

      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 EU 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.

      http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-2591_en.htm
      #externalisation

    • Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos in Albania at the official launch of first ever joint operation outside the EU

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      We are here today to celebrate an important achievement and a milestone, both for Albania and for the EU.

      Only six months ago, here in Tirana, the EU signed the status agreement with Albania on cooperation on border management between Albania and the European Border and Coast Guard. This agreement, that entered into force three weeks ago, was the first agreement ever of its kind with a neighbouring country.

      Today, we will send off the joint European Border and Coast Guard Teams to be deployed as of tomorrow for the first time in a non-EU Member State. This does not only mark a new phase for border cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan partners, it is also yet another step towards the full operationalisation of the Agency.

      The only way to effectively address migration and security challenges we are facing today and those we may be confronted with in the years to come is by working closer together, as neighbours and as partners. What happens in Albania and the Western Balkans affects the European Union, and the other way around.

      Joint approach to border management is a key part of our overall approach to managing migration. It allows us to show to our citizens that their security is at the top of our concerns. But effective partnership in ensuring orderly migration also enables us, as Europe, to remain a place where those in need of protection can find shelter.

      Albania is the first country in the Western Balkans with whom the EU is moving forward with this new important chapter in our joint co-operation on border management.

      This can be a source of pride for both Albania and the EU and an important step that brings us closer together.

      While the overall situation along the Western Balkans route remains stable with continuously low levels of arrivals - it is in fact like night and day when compared to three years ago - we need to remain vigilant.

      The Status Agreement will help us in this effort. It expands the scale of practical, operational cooperation between the EU and Albania and hopefully soon with the rest of the Western Balkan region.

      These are important elements of our co-operation, also in view of the continued implementation of the requirements under the visa liberalisation agreement. Visa-free travel is a great achievement, which brings benefits to all sides and should be safeguarded.

      Together with Albanian border guards, European Border and Coast Guard teams will be able to perform border checks at crossing points and perform border surveillance to prevent unauthorized border crossings and counter cross-border criminality.

      But, let me be clear, Albania remains ultimately responsible for the protection of its borders. European Border and Coast Guard Teams may only perform tasks and exercise powers in the Albanian territory under instructions from and, as a general rule, in the presence of border guards of the Republic of Albania.

      Dear Friends,

      When it comes to protecting our borders, ensuring our security and managing migration, the challenges we face are common, and so must be our response.

      The European Border and Coast Guard Status Agreement and its implementation will allow us to better work together in all these areas. I hope that these agreements can be finalised also with other Western Balkans partners as soon as possible.

      I wish to thank Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Albanian authorities, and the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Fabrice Leggeri and his team for their close cooperation in bringing this milestone achievement to life. I also want to thank all Member States who have contributed with staff and the personnel who will be part of this first deployment of European Border and Coast Guard teams in a neighbouring country.

      With just a few days to go before the European Elections, the need for a more united and stronger European family is more important than ever. We firmly believe that a key priority is to have strong relations with close neighbours, based on a clear balance of rights and obligations – but above all, on genuine partnership. This includes you, fellow Albanians.

      Albania is part of the European family.Our challenges are common. They know no borders. The progress we are witnessing today is another concrete action and proof of our commitment to bring us closer together. To make us stronger.

      http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-19-2668_en.htm

    • Externalisation: Frontex launches first formal operation outside of the EU and deploys to Albania

      The EU has taken a significant, if geographically small, step in the externalisation of its borders. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, has launched its first Joint Operation on the territory of a non-EU-Member State, as it begins cooperation with Albania on the border with Greece.

      After the launch of the operation in Tirana on 21 May a deployment of 50 officers, 16 patrol cars and a thermo-vision van started yesterday, 22 May (European Commission, link). Twelve Member States (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland and Slovenia) have contributed to the operation.

      New agreements

      The move follows the entry into force on 1 May this year of a Status Agreement between the EU and Albania on actions carried out by Frontex in that country (pdf). Those actions are made possible by the conclusion of operational plans, which must be agreed between Frontex and the Albanian authorities.

      The Status Agreement with Albania was the first among several similar agreements to be signed between the Agency and Balkan States, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and North Macedonia.

      The nascent operation in Albania will give Frontex team members certain powers, privileges and immunities on Albanian territory, including the use of force in circumstances authorised by Albanian border police and outlined in the operational plan.

      Frontex does not publish operational plans whilst operations (which can be renewed indefinitely) are ongoing, and documents published after the conclusion of operations (usually in response to requests for access to documents) are often heavily-redacted (Ask the EU, link).

      Relevant articles

      Article 4 of the Status Agreement outlines the tasks and powers of members of Frontex teams operating in Albanian territory. This includes the use of force, if it is authorised by both the Frontex team member’s home Member State and the State of Albania, and takes place in the presence of Albanian border guards. However, Albania can authorise team members to use force in their absence.

      Article 6 of the Status Agreement grants Frontex team members immunity from Albanian criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction “in respect of the acts performed in the exercise of their official functions in the course of the actions carried out in accordance with the operational plan”.

      Although a representative of Albania would be informed in the event of an allegation of criminal activity, it would be up to Frontex’s executive director to certify to the court whether the actions in question were performed as part of an official Agency function and in accordance with the Operational Plan. This certification will be binding on the jurisdiction of Albania. Proceedings may only continue against an individual team member if the executive director confirms that their actions were outside the scope of the exercise of official functions.

      Given the closed nature of the operational plans, this grants the executive director wide discretion and ensures little oversight of the accountability of Agency team members. Notably, Article 6 also states that members of teams shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. This immunity does not, however, extend to the jurisdiction of team members’ home Member States, and they may also waive the immunity of the individual under Albanian jurisdiction.

      Right to redress

      These measures of immunity alongside the lack of transparency surrounding documents outlining team members’ official functions and activities (the operational plan) raise concerns regarding access to redress for victims of human rights violations that may occur during operations.

      Human rights organisations have denounced the use of force by Frontex team members, only to have those incidents classified by the Agency as par for the course in their operations. Cases include incidents of firearm use that resulted in serious injury (The Intercept, link), but that was considered to have taken place according to the standard rules of engagement. This opacity has implications for individuals’ right to good administration and to the proper functioning of accountability mechanisms.

      If any damage results from actions that were carried out according to the operational plan, Albania will be held liable. This is the most binding liability outlined by the Status Agreement. Albania may only “request” that compensation be paid by the Member State of the team member responsible, or by the Agency, if acts were committed through gross negligence, wilful misconduct or outside the scope of the official functions of the Agency team or staff member.

      Across the board

      The provisions regarding tasks, powers and immunity in the Status Agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia are all broadly similar, with the exception of Article 6 of the agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina. This states:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina… to provide evidence in accordance with the procedural law of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

      The Status Agreement with Serbia, an early draft of which did not grant immunity to team members, is now consistent with the Agreement with Albania and includes provisions stating that members of teams shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses.

      It includes a further provision that:

      “...members of the team may use weapons only when it is absolutely necessary in self-defence to repel an immediate life-threatening attack against themselves or another person, in accordance with the national legislation of the Republic of Serbia”.

      http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/may/fx-albania-launch.htm

    • La police des frontières extérieures de l’UE s’introduit en Albanie

      Frontex, l’agence chargée des frontières extérieures de l’Union européenne, a lancé mardi en Albanie sa première opération hors du territoire d’un de ses États membres.

      Cette annonce de la Commission européenne intervient quelques jours avant les élections européennes et au moment où la politique migratoire de l’UE est critiquée par les candidats souverainistes, comme le ministre italien de l’Intérieur Matteo Salvini ou le chef de file de la liste française d’extrême droite, Jordan Bardella, qui a récemment qualifié Frontex d’« hôtesse d’accueil pour migrants ».

      Cette opération conjointe en Albanie est « une véritable étape historique rapprochant » les Balkans de l’UE, et témoigne d’une « meilleure gestion de la migration et de la protection de nos frontières communes », a commenté à Tirana le commissaire chargé des migrations, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

      L’Albanie espère convaincre les États membres d’ouvrir des négociations d’adhésion ce printemps, ce qui lui avait été refusé l’an passé. Son premier ministre Edi Rama a salué « un pas très important dans les relations entre l’Albanie et l’Union européenne » et a estimé qu’il « renforçait également la coopération dans le domaine de la sécurité ».

      À partir de 22 mai, Frontex déploiera des équipes conjointes à la frontière grecque avec des agents albanais.

      La Commission européenne a passé des accords semblables avec la Macédoine du Nord, la Serbie, le Monténégro et la Bosnie-Herzégovine, qui devraient également entrer en vigueur.

      Tous ces pays sont sur une des « routes des Balkans », qui sont toujours empruntées clandestinement par des milliers de personnes en route vers l’Union européenne, même si le flux n’est en rien comparable avec les centaines de milliers de migrants qui ont transité par la région en quelques mois jusqu’à la fermeture des frontières par les pays de l’UE début 2016.

      Ce type d’accord « contribuera à l’amélioration de la gestion de la migration clandestine, renforcera la sécurité aux frontières extérieures de l’UE et consolidera la capacité de l’agence à agir dans le voisinage immédiat de l’UE, tout en rapprochant de l’UE les pays voisins concernés », selon un communiqué de la Commission.

      Pour éviter de revivre le chaos de 2015, l’Union a acté un renforcement considérable de Frontex. Elle disposera notamment d’ici 2027 d’un contingent de 10 000 garde-frontières et garde-côtes pour aider des pays débordés.


      https://www.lapresse.ca/international/europe/201905/21/01-5226931-la-police-des-frontieres-exterieures-de-lue-sintroduit-en-albani

    • European Border and Coast Guard Agency began to patrol alongside the Albanian-Greek border in late May (https://www.bilten.org/?p=28118). Similar agreements have recently been concluded with Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina but Albania is the first country to start implementing programs aimed at blocking refugees entering the EU. Bilten states that Frontex employees can carry arms and fight “against any kind of crime, from” illegal migration “to theft of a car or drug trafficking”. Frontex’s mission is not time-bound, i.e. it depends on the EU’s need. The Albanian authorities see it as a step forward to their membership in the Union.

      Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa dobrodosli, le 10.06.2019

      L’article original:
      Što Frontex radi u Albaniji?

      Nakon što je Europska unija službeno zatvorila “balkansku migrantsku rutu”, očajni ljudi počeli su tražiti nove puteve. Jedan od njih prolazi kroz Albaniju, a tamošnja se vlada odrekla kontrole nad vlastitom granicom u nadi da će time udobrovoljiti unijske dužnosnike.

      Agencija za europsku graničnu i obalnu stražu, Frontex, počela je krajem prošlog mjeseca patrolirati uz albansko-grčku granicu. Već prvog dana, raspoređeno je pedesetak policajaca iz različitih zemalja članica EU koji bi se u suradnji s albanskim graničarima trebali boriti protiv “ilegalne migracije”. Iako je slične dogovore Unija nedavno sklopila sa zemljama poput Srbije, Sjeverne Makedonije, Crne Gore te Bosne i Hercegovine – a sve s ciljem blokiranja mogućnosti izbjeglica da uđu na područje EU – Albanija je prva zemlja u kojoj je počela provedba tog programa. Zaposlenici Frontexa ne samo da smiju nositi oružje, već imaju i dozvolu da se bore protiv bilo koje vrste kriminala, od “ilegalnih migracija” do krađe automobila ili trgovine drogom. Također, njihova misija nije vremenski ograničena, što znači da će Frontexovi zaposlenici patrolirati s albanske strane granice dok god to Unija smatra potrebnim.

      Unatoč nekim marginalnim glasovima koji su se žalili zbog kršenja nacionalne suverenosti prepuštanjem kontrole nad granicom stranim trupama, javnost je reagirala bilo potpunom nezainteresiranošću ili čak blagom potporom sporazumu koji bi tobože trebao pomoći Albaniji da uđe u Europsku uniju. S puno entuzijazma, lokalni su se mediji hvalili kako su u prva četiri dana Frontexovi zaposlenici već ulovili 92 “ilegalna migranta”. No to nije prvo, a ni najozbiljnije predavanje kontrole nad granicom koje je poduzela albanska vlada. Još od kasnih 1990-ih i ranih 2000-ih jadranskim i jonskim teritorijalnim vodama Republike Albanije patrolira talijanska Guardia di Finanza. Tih se godina albanska obala često koristila kao most prema Italiji preko kojeg je prelazila većina migranata azijskog porijekla, ne samo zbog blizine južne Italije, već i zbog slabosti državnih aparata tijekom goleme krize 1997. i 1998. godine.

      Helikopteri Guardije di Finanza također kontroliraju albansko nebo u potrazi za poljima kanabisa i to sve u suradnji s lokalnom državnom birokracijom koja je sama dijelom suradnica dilera, a dijelom nesposobna da im se suprotstavi. No posljednjih godina, zbog toga što su druge rute zatvorene, sve veći broj ljudi počeo se kretati iz Grčke preko Albanije, Crne Gore i BiH prema zemljama EU. Prema Međunarodnoj organizaciji za migracije, granicu je prešlo oko 18 tisuća ljudi, uglavnom iz Sirije, Pakistana i Iraka. To predstavlja povećanje od sedam puta u odnosu na godinu ranije. Tek manji dio tih ljudi je ulovljen zbog nedostatka kapaciteta granične kontrole ili pak potpune indiferencije prema ljudima kojima siromašna zemlja poput Albanije nikada neće biti destinacija.
      Tranzitna zemlja

      Oni koje ulove smješteni su u prihvatnom centru blizu Tirane, ali odatle im je relativno jednostavno pobjeći i nastaviti put dalje. Dio njih službeno je zatražio azil u Albaniji, ali to ne znači da će se dulje zadržati u zemlji. Ipak, očekuje se da će ubuduće albanske institucije biti znatno agresivnije u politici repatrijacije migranata. U tome će se susretati s brojnim pravnim i administrativnim problemima: kako objašnjavaju lokalni stručnjaci za migracije, Albanija sa zemljama iz kojih dolazi većina migranata – poput Sirije, Pakistana, Iraka i Afganistana – uopće nema diplomatske odnose niti pravne predstavnike u tim zemljama. Zbog toga je koordiniranje procesa repatrijacije gotovo nemoguće. Također, iako sporazum o repatrijaciji postoji s Grčkoj, njime je predviđeno da se u tu zemlju vraćaju samo oni za koje se može dokazati da su iz nje došli, a većina migranata koji dođu iz Grčke nastoji sakriti svaki trag svog boravka u toj zemlji.

      U takvoj situaciji, čini se izvjesnim da će Albanija biti zemlja u kojoj će sve veći broj ljudi zapeti na neodređeno vrijeme. Prije nekih godinu i pol dana, izbila je javna panika s dosta rasističkih tonova. Nakon jednog nespretnog intervjua vladinog dužnosnika njemačkom mediju proširile su se glasine da će se u Albaniju naseliti šesto tisuća Sirijaca. Brojka je već na prvi pogled astronomska s obzirom na to da je stanovništvo zemlje oko tri milijuna ljudi, ali teorije zavjere se obično šire kao požar. Neki od drugorazrednih političara čak su pozvali na oružanu borbu ako dođu Sirijci. No ta je panika zapravo brzo prošla, ali tek nakon što je vlada obećala da neće primiti više izbjeglica od onog broja koji bude određen raspodjelom prema dogovoru u Uniji. Otad zapravo nema nekog osobitog antimigrantskog raspoloženja u javnosti, unatoč tome što tisuće ljudi prolazi kroz zemlju.
      Europski san

      Odnos je uglavnom onaj indiferencije. Tome pridonosi nekoliko stvari: činjenica da je gotovo trećina stanovništva Albanije također odselila u zemlje Unije,1 zatim to što ne postoje neke vjerske i ultranacionalističke stranke, ali najviše to što nitko od migranata nema nikakvu namjeru ostati u zemlji. No zašto je albanska vlada tako nestrpljiva da preda kontrolu granice i suverenitet, odnosno zašto je premijer Edi Rama izgledao tako entuzijastično prilikom ceremonije s Dimitrisom Avramopulosom, europskim povjerenikom za migracije, unutrašnje poslove i državljanstvo? Vlada se nada da će to ubrzati njezin put prema članstvu u Europskoj uniji. Posljednjih pet godina provela je čekajući otvaranje pristupnih pregovora, a predavanje kontrole nad granicom vidi kao još jednu ilustraciju svoje pripadnosti Uniji.

      S druge strane, stalna politička kriza koju su izazvali studentski protesti u prosincu 2018., te kasnije bojkot parlamenta i lokalnih izbora od strane opozicijskih stranaka, stavlja neprestani pritisak na vladu. Očajnički treba pozitivan znak iz EU jer vodi političku i ideološku borbu protiv opozicije oko toga tko je autentičniji kulturni i politički predstavnik europejstva. Vlada naziva opoziciju i njezine nasilne prosvjede antieuropskima, dok opozicija optužuje vladu da svojom korupcijom i povezanošću s organiziranim kriminalom radi protiv europskih želja stanovništva. Prije nekoliko dana, Komisija je predložila početak pristupnih pregovora s Albanijom, no Europsko vijeće je to koje ima zadnju riječ. Očekuje se kako će sve ovisiti o toj odluci. Ideja Europe jedno je od čvorišta vladajuće ideologije koja se desetljećima gradi kao antipod komunizmu i Orijentu te historijska destinacija kojoj Albanci stoljećima teže.

      Neoliberalna rekonstrukcija ekonomije i društva gotovo je uvijek legitimirana tvrdnjama kako su to nužni – iako bolni – koraci prema integraciji u Europsku uniju. Uspješnost ove ideologije ilustrira činjenica da otprilike 90% ispitanih u različitim studijama podržava Albansku integraciju u EU. U toj situaciji ne čudi ni odnos prema Frontexu.

      https://www.bilten.org/?p=28118