Frontex expands presence in Western Balkans with operation in Serbia

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is expanding its operational activities outside of the European Union with the launch of a new operation in Serbia.

Serbia is the third country in the Western Balkans to host a fully-fledged Frontex operation with 44 standing corps officers from 14 countries helping to detect criminal activities such as people smuggling, trafficking in human beings, document fraud and smuggling of stolen vehicles, illegal drugs, weapons and excise goods, as well as potential terrorist threats. In the coming months, the number of officers is expected to rise to up to 87 officers upon Serbia’s request.

Frontex already has nearly 150 standing corps officers and staff taking part in operations in Albania and Montenegro, along with patrol cars, helicopters and other equipment.

“I am proud, with Serbian Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin, to launch the first Frontex joint operation at Serbian border with Bulgaria. Frontex officers from 14 member states will work side by side with Serbian police officers to surveil and protect the border and fight smuggling and organised crime,” said Commissioner Ylva Johansson. “This is another step forward for the broader Frontex.”

“Our successful operations in the Western Balkan countries show that cooperation across borders is essential to tackle various cross-border criminal activities in this key region for Europe. I look forward to seeing Frontex officers working side-by-side with their Serbian colleagues at our borders,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri.

The operation will take place at Serbia’s border with Bulgaria, which has seen a rising number of illegal border crossings in recent years. The operation will be coordinated from the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland while the Local Coordination Centre will be established in the premises of Border Crossing Point Gradina.

The standing corps officers deployed in Serbia will also take part in activities within EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats),a security initiative driven by EU Member States to identify, prioritise and address threats posed by organised and serious international crime.

The start of the “Joint Operation Serbia – Land 2021” is another important step in the implementation of the Status Agreement between the European Union and Serbia, which entered into force in May.