Albania and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) launched here on Tuesday a joint operation, which aims to support Albania on border control and to tackle cross-border crime.
The launch event took place with the presence of the Albanian Prime Minster Edi Rama, Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.
The joint operation followed the completion of the status agreement on border cooperation between the EU and Albania that came into force at the beginning of this month.
According to the agreement, Frontex will deploy at Albania’s borders with Greece 50 officers with 16 patrol cars and one thermo-vision van, which are from 12 EU members.
Speaking at the event, Rama noted that Albania is the first country in the Western Balkans that will monitor its external borders.
According to Rama, Albania has all capacities to protect its borders and to handle the migration flow that comes from third countries.
“By deepening cross-border police cooperation,under this agreement, Albania will become a direct contributor, as well as directly benefit from the participation in this project,” Rama said.
Lleshaj said, “The joint mission aims to better address illegal migration towards Albania.”
Meanwhile, Leggeri said that border guards from all around Europe will work shoulder-to-shoulder with their Albanian colleagues at Albania’s border with Greece.
“We can only effectively deal with the many challenges at our borders if we work together across borders,”Leggeri added.
In his remarks, Avramopoulos underlined that Frontex is opening an entirely new chapter in its 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,”Avramopoulos said.
This is the first fully-fledged joint operation Frontex launches outside the EU.
According to Frontex, the main aim of the operation is to control migratory flows, tackle cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism, and to enhance European cooperation at the land border between Albania and Greece.