European Union authorities have signed an agreement with Serbia to cooperate in regards to border and coast management. This cooperation between the non-Schengen country and Frontex —the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is expected to increase security within the EU for both visitors and residents alike.
The agreement was signed by Maria Ohisalo —Minister of the Interior of Finland and President of the Council— on behalf of the European Union, by Dimitris Avramopoulos —Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship— and, by Nebojša Stefanović —Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior— on behalf of the Republic of Serbia.
The draft decision is scheduled to be sent to the European Parliament in order to receive its consent for the agreement to be finalized.
European Union border management
Serbia has international borders with 8 European countries —Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Hungary— of which only the last is a Schengen country.
This cooperation, in which the Western Balkan nation has partnered with the EU, is fundamental to ensure the successful management of their common borders. Thanks to this mutually beneficial agreement, Frontex will gain the ability to coordinate operations between European Union member states and Serbia while providing its support and expertise.
This new agreement further strengthens relations between Serbia and the European Union which ultimately brings the Western Balkan nation closer to joining the EU.
Furthermore, this compromise enables Frontex to assist Serbia in border administration, carry out joint operations and deploy teams in the areas of Serbia that border the EU, subject to Serbia’s agreement.
Strengthened border cooperation between EU and third countries
The partnership between Serbia and the EU benefits both residents and travellers to the country as well as the European Union in multiple ways.
Border cooperation activities have the objective of tackling illegal immigration as well as cross-border crime. In addition, the collaboration allows the EU to provide Serbia increased technical and operational assistance at their common borders.
Strengthened cooperation between priority third countries —such as Serbia and other Balkan nations— and Frontex will also allow further enhanced security at the European Union’s external frontiers.
Similar agreements were recently signed with both Albania and Montenegro whilst others with North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and are still pending finalization.
According to these new agreements, Frontex is allowed to take part in joint operations as well as carry out deployments on the territory of countries that neighbor the EU. These actions, however, are subject to the prior conclusion of a status agreement between the EU and the country involved.
The European Parliament and the EU Council have recently ratified a new regulation that reinforces the EU Border and Coast Guard. This regulation was initially proposed by the European Commission to allow for joint operations and deployments in countries beyond the EU’s immediate vicinity.
Cooperation with third countries is a critical component of the European integrated border management initiative. This approach is applied through a tiered access model which includes:
- Border control within the Schengen Area
- Measures within the Schengen Area
- Measures with neighbouring third countries
- Measures in third countries
Serbia, the EU, and the Schengen Area
Serbia is one of the 8 Balkan nations, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia.
Although Serbia officially applied for EU membership in 2009, accession negotiations are still in process. It is one of 5 current European Union candidate countries, together with Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkey.
Serbia is also one of the European countries that is not part of the Schengen territory, along with Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Turkey, Ukraine, The United Kingdom and Vatican City. Croatia recently received the EU’s approval to join.
Foreign visitors travelling to Serbia are required to apply for a visa to visit the country. However, although Serbia is not yet a member nation of the European Union, travellers visiting the country may do so without having to apply for a Serbian visa if they are holders of a Schengen visa.
Additionally, when the ETIAS program —the European Travel Information and Authorisation System— is fully operational in 2022, ETIAS holders are likely to also be allowed to enter Serbia thanks to the EU-Serbia agreement on border and coast guard cooperation.
ETIAS is not a visa, it is an electronic travel authorisation that will allow visitors from visa-exempt nations to cross an external Schengen Area border. The permit will be valid for visa-free stays of up to 90 days per 180-day period.