Frontex, more commonly known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is an international border enforcement agency for the European Union’s Schengen Area. It works to ensure that the zone’s frontier member states and the border integrity of the Schengen zone are adequately protected.
Once ETIAS is launched by the end of 2022, the job of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will become ever more important, as its members will play a large role in enforcing the new system. To explain the functions of the agency better the following article will detail the way Frontex is organized and how it performs its many roles and responsibilities.
What is Frontex and what does it do?
The European Border and Coast Guard’s Agency’s primary purpose is to manage the protection and security of the Schengen Area’s borders as well as simplify the joint border control efforts of the international member states. The organization was first formed in 2004 as an EU-wide solution to managing and improving the flow of immigration into Schengen member states via the external borders and thereby improving the national security of all 26 countries making up the free travel area.
The organization is sometimes known as Frontex, which was adopted from the French term Frontières extérieures (meaning external borders). It coordinates equipment such as boats and aircraft as well as specialist border staff to areas struggling with migratory pressures. The organization itself does not in fact have its own equipment or enforcement staff, instead, these are provided by member states. In return, Frontex then reimburses the costs of their deployment back to participating countries.
The responsibility of border security of the Schengen Area ultimately lies with each member state. However, in response to the rise in immigration into Europe and to combat the threat of global terrorism, Frontex is available to offer logistical and technical help to any countries that are struggling to deal with crisis levels of immigration or major threats to their border security. This is especially practical for the member states that make up the external borders of the zone.
Quick Facts about The European Border and Coast Guard Agency
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The European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s key responsibilities
Aside from coordinating technical equipment and specialist border security staff for member states, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency also takes on a role providing intelligence and research to countries within the Schengen zone. Among these additional responsibilities are the following areas:
- Risk analysis
- Rapid response
- Joint operations
- Information sharing
- Joint returns of migrants
The agency also works closely with joint information database projects such as SIS, VIS and EURODAC. In doing this it is tasked with ensuring that the information shared between all countries is accurately collected and deployed across the member states for border security purposes. This information and other decisions made by Frontex directly influence the policy, standards, and training of all border guards across Europe.
How is Frontex Structured?
At present, there are currently 700 employees from 29 countries working with Frontex. This at present is a mixture of the over 300 administrative staff based in Warsaw and the deployed officials and experts securing Europe’s borders. The organization, however, is hoping to expand its workforce by around 1000 people by 2022. This will comprise:
- 250 additional administration staff
- 750 standing officials who will be deployed to operations around Europe
Knowing the roles and jurisdiction of Frontex is only going to get more important over the next few years. From the end of 2022, when it will become obligatory for visitors from outside the EU to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver on visiting the Schengen Area, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will have a big part to play in ensuring the scheme is a success. As one of the organizations that will be checking that the new ETIAS requirements are met and adhered to by international visitors to Schengen, it will be doing much to ensure the safety and security of EU residents and tourists to the Union.