From Frontex 2.0 to Frontex 3.0
Since its inception in 2004, Frontex has been at the forefront of the European Union’s policy in the field of external border management. The 2015 ‘migratory crisis’ created fertile ground for swift and unprecedented upgrading of Frontex’s powers, resources and capacities. Within only three years, Frontex saw its mandate enhanced twice. First, in 2016, with the reinforced Frontex 2.0 (relabelled as the ‘European Border and Coast Guard Agency’) enjoying significant powers in returns, ‘hotspots’ and the monitoring of Member States’ border management capacities, in parallel with disposing of a rapid reaction pool of border guards in exceptional situations. Second, in 2019, Frontex 2.0 is already replaced with Frontex 3.0 equipped with stronger powers in returns, extended information-related tasks within the reformed Eurosur framework, and a European Border and Coast Guard standing corps that includes for the first time Agency’s own staff.
One of the most spectacular developments introduced by the recent legal reforms concerns Frontex’s external relations, namely the possibility to carry out operational activities in third country territories. Frontex is currently allowed to conduct actions on the territory of third countries, by deploying border guard teams in the context of joint and return operations. The details of these operations, including privileges and immunities of team members, exercise of executive powers and the use of force are subject to status agreements between the EU (not Frontex) and the third country concerned. So far, status agreements have been concluded or are being concluded with five Western Balkan countries, the first Frontex-coordinated joint operation on the territory of a third country ever being launched on 21 May 2019 in Albania. The new Frontex regulation entered into force at the end of 2019 further boosts Agency’s extraterritorial border management operations. It bears the promise of seeing many status agreements concluded and Frontex-coordinated operations deployed in third countries in the coming years.
In his contribution to the Symposium ‘Frontex – A Rising Star of Declining Europe?’ hosted by the prestigious Verfassungsblog, Dr. Florin Coman-Kund (Assistant Professor in European Union law) provides thought-provoking insights on the progressive extraterritorialization of Frontex operations to the Western Balkans and beyond (read the full blog post here)