After Albania and Montenegro, Frontex now plans mission in Serbia

After Albania, the EU Border Agency has started an operation in Montenegro. The mission at the Croatian land border is to be extended to the sea borders. A status agreement with northern Macedonia is about to be signed, negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are continuing.

On 15 July the EU border agency Frontex launched a new operation in Montenegro. After Albania, this is the second long-term operation in a third country outside the European Union. It follows the conclusion of a status agreement which came into force in July. It is led by the Montenegrin Border Police, Frontex provides support in terms of personnel, equipment and coordination of joint activities.The area of operation is the land border with Croatia. The government in Zagreb was therefore involved in drawing up the operation plan in accordance with Article 74 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 on the European Border and Coast Guard.

According to Frontex, the main objective of „Joint Operation Montenegro“ is to combat cross-border crime, including the smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings, document fraud, stolen vehicles and boats, drug and arms smuggling and terrorism. Currently Croatia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Portugal are participating, Frontex plans to extend the operation to Montenegro’s maritime borders in the coming weeks. The „Joint Operation“ also plans to provide training for the border authorities in Montenegro, including on the detection of forged documents.

Frontex deployed personnel may only operate in cooperation with and in the presence of Montenegrin officials. According to Articles 5 and 7 of the Status Agreement between the European Union and Montenegro on the implementation of operations by Frontex, members of the teams may carry weapons, ammunition and equipment in accordance with the law of their Member State of origin. The use of firearms is not regulated in the status agreement and is therefore limited to self-defence.

As is customary in Frontex operations, the deployed officers enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution by Montenegrin courts for acts committed in the exercise of their duties. Criminal prosecution can only take place in the sending state. This also applies to the civil and administrative prosecution of any violations.

Except with Kosovo, Frontex also intends to conduct operations in all the other third countries of the Western Balkans. A status agreement with Serbia was signed by the European Commission and the government in Belgrade on 19 November 2019. After approval by the Council of the European Union on 26 May 2020, the implementation is „in preparation“ according to the German Interior Ministry. The status agreement with Northern Macedonia has been negotiated but not yet signed. Negotiations are continuing with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Image: Start of the first Frontex mission in Albania (Frontex).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.