Even under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to make additional efforts to find responses to illegal migration and to strengthen cooperation between the Member States of the European Union and partners in Southeast Europe. In this regard, it is important to highlight possible contribution of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to offering support to the Member States of the EU as well as partner countries, said the Croatian EU Presidency.
A prerequisite for the Frontex engagement outside the borders of the European Union is the prior conclusion of a status agreement. Its provisions clearly define the scope of Frontex forces’ activities, respecting the principle of national sovereignty of the receiving state.
The results of the operational action carried out thus far which, based on a status agreement with Albania, Frontex already implements in Southeast Europe, in cooperation with the Member States’ national forces, fully justify such an aspect of cooperation and significantly contribute to the successes in combatting illegal migratory pressures. In its Programme of Presidency of the Council of the European Union , the Republic of Croatia emphasised that it would advocate the conclusion of status agreements with all the states of Southeast Europe and their effective application.
In addition to the implementation of the joint operation in Albania based on the signed and ratified Status Agreement in the first half of 2019, a Status Agreement with Montenegro has been ratified recently, and another one with the Republic of Serbia has been signed and its ratification is expected soon. Moreover, negotiations are underway with the Republic of North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
For this reason, the Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia Davor Božinović, PhD, sent letters to the Minister of the Internal Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia Nakje Chulev, the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina Fahrudin Radončić, and the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria Mladen Marinov on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union so that these agreements be concluded as soon as possible.
“In his letter to the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Minister Božinović expressed his full support, on behalf of the Republic of Croatia as a neighbouring friendly country and the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, for all activities aimed at continuing negotiations and final reaching of the status agreement. This will primarily be to the benefit of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the European Union. He emphasised that Bosnia and Herzegovina can count on the support of the Republic of Croatia and the European Commission in this sense and in all the necessary forms. This includes joint deliberation on possible new approaches that could result in removing the existing obstacles and a successful outcome in this important issue”, reads the statement of the Croatian Presidency.
In the context of negotiations on the status agreement with the European Union, the Republic of North Macedonia has an outstanding issue pertaining to the status of the Macedonian language. North Macedonia has proved to be a reliable partner of the European Union during migratory pressures thus far and has on a number of occasions demonstrated its preference for Euro-Atlantic integration. Bearing this in mind, Minister Božinović stressed that the Republic of North Macedonia can count on any form of support from Croatia and the European Commission so that a satisfactory solution to this bilateral issue be finally found. He expressed his full support for the continuation of negotiations.
In his letter to the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Minister Božinović reminded of the consensus reached at the level of the European Union how important it is for Frontex to reach status agreements with five states of Southeast Europe. On behalf of the Republic of Croatia as the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, he called upon a constructive approach to the resolution of the issue of the status of the Macedonian language. This is an issue of delicate nature that requires a specific approach in its resolution. Minister Božinović offered assistance, together with the European Commission, in finding a mutually satisfactory solution.
Since migratory pressures, which are largely conditioned by the situation in the Middle East, first reflect on the Member States on the external border of the European Union, it is of paramount importance to conclude the status agreements with the remaining states of Southeast Europe as soon as possible. This would enable Frontex, in cooperation with the Member States, to begin its preparations for and implementation of joint operations in this area to combat illegal migration even more effectively./ibna