Teams of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which was formerly known as Frontex, are joining forces with Albania’s police to patrol the Balkan nation’s land and sea borders in the agency’s first-ever joint operation is a non-EU country.

The mission will be launched on 22 May, six months after the EU signed a status agreement with Tirana on its border management, an agreement that entered into force three weeks ago.

“Today, we will send off the joint European Border and Coast Guard Teams to be deployed 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 its Western Balkan partners, but it is also yet another step towards the full operationalisation of the Agency,” said Avramopoulos. “The only way to effectively address the migration and security challenges we are facing today, and those we may have been confronted with in the years to come, is by working closer together as neighbours and partners. What happens in Albania and the Western Balkans affects the European Union and the other way around.”

While the overall situation along the Western Balkans route remains stable with continuously low levels of arrivals, compared to the situation three days ago “we need to remain vigilant”. The EU will deploy 50 officers, 16 patrol cars and 1 thermo-vision van to support Albania in border control and tackling cross-border crime.

“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 unauthorised border crossings and counter cross-border criminality,” underlined the Commissioner, clarifying that “Albania remains ultimately responsible for the protection of its borders. The European Border and Coast Guard teams may only perform tasks and exercise powers under instructions from and, as a general rule, in the presence of border guards of the Republic of Albania”