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MEMO/07/203

Brussels, 24 May 2007

European Border Patrols Network to combat illegal immigration along the southern maritime borders of the European Union

At its meeting on 14-15 December 2006 the European Council invited FRONTEX to establish, as soon as possible, together with the Member States in the region, a permanent Coastal Patrols Network at their southern maritime borders. This call followed the 'MEDSEA' technical feasibility study on a Mediterranean Coastal Patrol Network carried out by FRONTEX and the Commission's Communication on reinforcing the management of the European Union's Southern Maritime Borders[1] FRONTEX and the Member States concerned (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Greece and Cyprus) have opted for a regional approach as the first step, based on bilateral cooperation between neighbouring states. FRONTEX provided assistance in drawing up operational plans, defining the geographical areas to be covered and the intensity and use of resources. During this first stage the European Border Patrols Network (EBPN) will not be co-financed by FRONTEX. For the moment there will be no "competing" use of resources.

Granting Community funds for investments that are also relevant to the EBPN must be a priority (e.g. establishing National Co-ordination Centres and purchasing and/or upgrading equipment for border surveillance at southern maritime borders). In the future, Member States will be able to use the resources available from the External Borders Fund to this end.

The EBPN must be seen in the context of joint operations carried out by FRONTEX; these operations must continue in high-risk areas where illegal immigration by sea is prevalent (e.g. the Canary Islands, Greece, Italy, Malta). As the EBPN relies on coordinating national patrol activities, whereas joint operations rely on contributions by other Member States, there will be no operational overlap in this phase.

The first phase of the EBPN's operational activities starts on 24 May 2007 and will last until the end of June. It will be followed by an evaluation of the operation whilst phasing in the EPN to create permanent operational co-operation.

The Commission supports the call to keep third countries in Northern and Western Africa continuously informed of FRONTEX-led operations, to the extent compatible with their success. This applies not only to the EPN but also to joint operations.

In the meantime, the Agency, in accordance with Article 7 of Regulation (EC)
N° 2007/2004 of 26 October 2004 establishing the FRONTEX agency, set up and keeps centralised records (CRATE –Centralised Record of Available Technical Equipment- also known as "tool box") of technical equipment for control and surveillance of external borders belonging to Member States, which they, on a voluntary basis and upon request of another Member State, are willing to put at the disposal of that Member State.

The pool of technical equipment is managed by FRONTEX. The equipment can only be used by another Member State for a temporary period. Furthermore FRONTEX must agree with the request of a Member State for technical equipment from the "CRATE" through its independent analysis of the needs of, and the risks faced by, the requesting Member State. The equipment in the "CRATE" remains the property of the contributing Member State. Overall contributions to the "CRATE" are satisfactory in terms of the number of aircraft, vessels and other equipment contributed by Member States (i.e. in total 21 aircraft, 24 helicopters, 115 vessels, 3 mobile radar units, 167 border surveillance and 191 border checks equipment).

The "CRATE" is to become an evolving list, which needs to be adapted on a regular basis to take into account new or changing situations related to the control and surveillance of external borders belonging to Member States. However, it has to be stressed that work is still in progress aimed at defining the procedures (incl. requirements, commitments, requests, financing, responsibilities) related to the effective use of the equipment being requested and used by an individual Member State or in the context of a joint operation. As far as the EBPN is concerned, at this stage, the participating Member States will carry out their patrolling activities by using their own equipment; therefore the use of the "CRATE" is not envisaged for the time being.

For further information on the activities of Vice-President Frattini, please visit his website at: http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm


[1] COM(2006)733 final of 30.11.2006


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