Ahead of the EU-Western Balkans Summit of 6 December 2022 and the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8 December, the Commission has presented an EU Action Plan on the Western Balkans. The action plan follows up on the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council (Home Affairs) of 25 November, where Ministers committed to implementing the EU Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean.
There are 20 operational measures in 5 pillars in the plan:
- strengthening border management along the routes
- swift asylum procedures and supporting reception capacity
- fighting migrant smuggling
- enhancing readmission cooperation and returns
- achieving visa policy alignment
The measures are focused on support to or actions by Western Balkan partners, and action in the EU. It aims to strengthen the cooperation on migration and border management with partners in the Western Balkans in light of their status towards EU accession and their continued efforts to align with EU rules.
The action plan reinforces the EU's support to Member States facing increased migratory pressure along the Western Balkan routes.Irregular movements along the routes have significantly increased this year due to several factors, including economic pressures and insecurity resulting from ongoing conflicts.
Pillar One: Strengthening border management along the routes
Reinforcing border management along the whole migration route is essential to reduce irregular flows. The EU has already concluded status agreements with Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia, allowing Frontex to deploy the European Border and Coast Guard standing corps to joint operations in the region. These deployments are to be strengthened, and new status agreements will be swiftly negotiated.
Pillar two: Swift asylum procedure and supporting reception capacity
The EU supports the Western Balkans in improving its asylum capacity through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) programme. This includes further strengthening their asylum and registration procedures as well as ensuring adequate reception conditions.
Pillar three: Fighting migrant smuggling
During the EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial on 3 November 2022 the Commission launched an Anti-Smuggling Operational Partnership.A Europol operational task force is needed as well as further work on the EMPACT cycle 2022-2025 and to implement the IPA programme on anti-smuggling, while an agreement is reached on sanctioning transport operators. In the meantime the Commission will provide an operational toolbox to target transport operators.
Pillar four: Readmission cooperation and returns
We will support Western Balkans partners with EU action to step up returns in the region, strengthening operational capacities through Frontex, as well as convening Joint Readmission Committees. A new programme on returns from the region will be developed in 2023.
Pillar five: Alignment of visa policy
Visa policy alignment is key to the functioning of the visa free regime of the Western Balkans with the EU. All Western Balkans partners should align their visa policy with the EU as a matter of priority. The Commission has adopted its Fifth report on visa suspension on the monitoring of the EU visa-free regime with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, as well as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Recent developments underline the need to find sustainable and structural European solutions to our common challenges based on the approach set out in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. It is crucial to ensure the adoption of these reforms before the end of this legislative term.
EU Action Plan on the Western Balkans
Commission proposes Action Plan to address challenges
New Pact on Migration and Asylum
- 5 detsember 2022
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