Montenegrin Interior Minister Filip Adzic has announced a new agreement with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, that will see Montenegrin police and Frontex guards jointly deployed from July 1 to curb illegal migration.
The agreement was signed between Adzic, EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, and justice minister Gunnar Strommer to allow for the deployment of Frontex border guards in Montenegro.
According to the agreement, Montenegrin police and Frontex will also have the power to arrange joint operations.
Adzic said that the agreement will replace the existing agreement, signed in 2020. The earlier agreement provided for joint protection of the border between Montenegro and Croatia against illegal migration.
Croatia is Montenegro’s only EU neighbor state.
“Frontex officers will be on all Montenegrin borders with neighboring countries, not only Croatia. It will contribute to addressing irregular migration and further enhance security at the EU’s external borders,” Adzic said.
According to official data from Montenegro, more than 8,500 migrants crossed into the country last year, up 150 percent from 2021.
The European Council confirmed the decision to sign the agreement with Montenegro on 14 May, but said the Balkan state remains responsible for the protection of its own borders.
The agreement must first be confirmed in the European Parliament and Montenegrin parliament.
Under the agreement, Frontex will provide both technical and operational support, while teams can support Montenegrin border guards in carrying out border checks at crossing points, as well as preventing unauthorized entries.
The agreement also gives Frontex employees the right to exercise executive powers, including conducting border checks and registering people.
Frontex launched its first non-EU operation in 2019. More than 500 border officers have been deployed in the Balkan region since then.
Frontex currently oversees joint operations at the EU’s external borders with Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, in addition to the July 2020 agreement in Montenegro.
Frontex’s involvement in the Balkans, however, has encountered some criticism.
Last November, the agency’s plans to conduct mass surveillance operations at EU borders were halted following an investigation by journalists, and criticism from the EU data protection watchdog, the EDPS.
The EU border agency was also forced to admit discrepancies, and re-write the programme in accordance with EU data protection laws.
Earlier this year, Frontex released data showing some 145,600 irregular border crossings, or illegal migration, reported in the Western Balkans in 2022.
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