Frontex launches joint operation in North Macedonia

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and North Macedonia are launching a joint operation at the country’s external border today. More than 100 European border guards will support local authorities with border surveillance and border checks, including patrolling, checking documents and gathering information on cross-border crime.

North Macedonia is the fifth country outside the European Union to host a Frontex joint operation. It highlights the growing presence of European Border and Coast Guard standing corps in the Western Balkan region. As a vital crossroad, the region is often the stage where human traffickers, smugglers, and criminals attempt to evade the rule of law.

Reinforcing border management along North Macedonia’s borders will contribute to further enhancing security at the EU’s external borders.

The special opening ceremony in the capital city of Skopje was attended by Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski, Minister of Interior Affairs Oliver Spasovski, EU Ambassador David Geer, Member of the European Parliament Lena Düpont and Frontex Executive Director Hans Leijtens.

“Today marks a significant milestone. We are here to launch of a new Frontex operation that will strengthen and support the border management efforts of North Macedonia. Here we find a dedicated partner who shares our commitment to maintaining the integrity of our borders. Together, we will work tirelessly to protect our citizens and ensure the safety and security of the entire region,” said Frontex Executive Director Hans Leijtens.

“And we must always remember that our mission is not only about securing borders but also about protecting lives and upholding the values that define us as a community,” he added.

In a video message, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “More than five years in the making, Frontex border guard and the Border Police of North Macedonia are standing side-by-side, the European Union and North Macedonia shoulder-to-shoulder – fighting crime together and managing migration together.”

North Macedonia’s Minister of Interior Affairs Oliver Spasovski said: “With today’s joint event with Frontex, we are sending another very important message – that we are not alone in dealing with irregular migration. That the strengthening of cooperation with the European Union and, in general, the fulfilment of priorities from the European agenda bring concrete benefits to our citizens.

“Because our common commitment in dealing with irregular migration and cross-border crime will inevitably ensure greater security for both the citizens of our country and the European Union. In this joint action, we walk together, as equal partners, because only with a joint, coordinated approach we will be able to successfully deal with global challenges. The Frontex operation will at first cover North Macedonia’s border with Greece. It will later expand to also include the country’s borders with Albania and Serbia.”

The standing corps officers will support document checks and assist the local authorities in establishing the nationality of migrants. This will be complemented by training activities to develop regional border control capacities and by the exchange of operational information, professional experiences, and best practices. They will work under the command and control of the Border Police of North Macedonia.

Frontex operations outside the EU

In situations requiring increased operational assistance, Frontex is able to launch operations in countries neighbouring the European Union. Before Frontex can launch an operation in a country neighbouring the EU, a status agreement signed between the EU and the respective non-EU country needs to be in place.

The status agreement between North Macedonia and the European Union paving the way for the Frontex deployment was signed on 26 October 2022 and it entered into force on 1 April 2023.