In response to an inquiry by Germany’s left-wing fraction Die Linke, the federal government said the operation of Europe’s Border and Coast Guard Agency contributes to “support the Albanian authorities with their border police duties and return operations.”
The operation has also contributed to bringing Albanian authorities closer to the “qualitative standards of the European Union in this purview,” according to the government.
At present, 66 border guards from 12 EU member states are on active duty at the Albanian-Greek border. Among them are 11 police officers from Germany’s federal police force.
Frontex forces are to help Albania monitor its “green border” with Greece and to prevent cross-border crime, the government said further. To that end, Frontex border guards were also present at five border crossings.
More border crossings
The operation was set up due to the increased number of refugees and migrants who tried to get to Albania from Greece in 2018. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 1,200 migrants were newly registered in Albania during the first six months of this year. Last year, almost 1,400 people arrived in Albania, up from 752 in 2017.
From the non-EU state Albania, migrants mostly try to reach Italy, Austria or Germany via Montenegro and Kosovo, two other non-member states.
Frontex’ first mission outside EU territory
The Greece-Albania operation marks the first operation in a non-EU country where Frontex forces exercise sovereign powers. Other such operations may soon follow: According to Germany’s federal Interior Ministry, agreements with Serbia, North Macedonia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina similar to the one with Albania to stop irregular border crossings along the Balkan route are presently in the “final stage of negotiations.”
Andrej Hunko, who represents Die Linke party in Germany’s parliament, criticized the Frontex operations as being an expression of an “expansion of the fortress Europe.” Observers say Albania is keen to let EU member states see it is serious about fighting crime so it can boost its chances of starting accession talks with the EU.