Effective management of EU external borders is a key element for a Schengen area without internal border checks. It is needed in order to:
- facilitate legitimate border crossings
- manage migration effectively
- improve internal security in the EU by detecting and preventing threats at the external border
- safeguard the principle of free movement of persons
Management of EU external borders is a shared responsibility of all Member States, and of the EU including the relevant institutions and EU agencies. An important policy instrument for the EU to protect the EU external borders is European integrated border management.
The European Border and Coast Guard — composed of the Member States’ border and coast guard authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) — is tasked to implement European integrated border management. The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) is a framework for information exchange and cooperation between the national border authorities and Frontex — but also with third parties.
The Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard entered into force in December 2019, and its timely operationalisation is essential. Among the novelties of the Regulation is the gradual creation of a standing corps having the capacity of 10 000 operational staff, consisting of personnel from the Agency as well as from Member States with the possibility of exercising executive powers. It represents a major reinforcement of the EU’s ability to respond to different situations at the external borders and to manage returns. The first deployment of the corps will take place as of 1 January 2021.
European integrated border management is made up of 15 components with a centrally positioned border control — including measures for detection and prevention of cross-border crime and terrorism, and measures related to a referral mechanism for vulnerable persons or persons in need of international protection.
On 14 March 2023, the Commission adopted the Communication establishing the multiannual strategic policy for EIBM (EIBM Communication), which builds on the discussion that took place in the European Parliament and Council on the Commission Policy document developing a multiannual strategic policy for EIBM adopted in May 2022.
With the adoption of the EIBM Communication, the Commission established the five-year Multiannual strategic policy cycle for EIBM, for the period 2023-2027.
The EIBM Communication identifies strategic challenges that affect the EU’s external borders, and provides multiannual strategic policy goals to address these challenges. A number of EIBM principles follow from these goals and are embedded in the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation.
Furthermore, the Communication places particular emphasis on the following EIBM components:
a) border control, b) a common EU system for returns, c) cooperation with third countries, d) inter-agency cooperation, e) use of state-of-the-art technology including large-scale information systems, f) respect, protection and promotion of fundamental rights, g) a coherent and comprehensive quality control mechanism, and h) EU funding instruments. In its annexes, the Communication provides policy priorities and strategic guidelines for the EIBM components, and information on the implementation of the multiannual policy cycle on EIBM.
As a next step, the multiannual strategic policy will have to be implemented by Frontex and the Member States. Frontex will adopt a new Technical and Operational Strategy for EIBM, which will be followed by Member States updating their national strategies for EIBM.
Four years after the launch of the cycle, the Commission will launch the evaluation of the implementation of the multiannual strategic policy and the preparation for the following cycle will begin.
Changes brought by the Pact on Migration and Asylum
One part of the European Pact on Migration and Asylum is stepping up the management of EU external borders. The Commission will launch the multiannual strategic policy cycle to steer European Integrated Border Management by the European Border and Coast Guard. This five-year cycle will ensure a unified framework to provide strategic guidelines to all relevant actors at the European and national level in the area of border management and return, through linked strategies. This will allow all the relevant legal, financial and operational instruments and tools to be coherent, both within the EU and with external partners.
Another part of the Pact is the presentation of a strategy on the future of Schengen, which will include initiatives to upgrade the current Schengen system in order to make it fully functioning again and more resistant to possible future crises. This could include proposals for an improved governance system — in particular as far as temporary re-introductions of control at the internal borders are concerned, and to improve the Schengen evaluation mechanism, with a view to making it a fully effective tool for evaluating the functioning of Schengen and for ensuring an effective correction of shortcomings detected in the Member States.
Background documents on securing EU borders