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EUROSUR: Protecting the Schengen external borders - protecting migrants' lives

European Commission - MEMO/13/1070   29/11/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 29 November 2013

EUROSUR: Protecting the Schengen external borders - protecting migrants' lives

EUROSUR in a nutshell

On 2 December 2013 the Regulation establishing the European Border Surveillance System enters into force, making EUROSUR operational for the 19 Schengen Member States at the southern and eastern external borders. The other 11 Schengen countries will join EUROSUR on 1 December 2014.

EUROSUR is a multipurpose system to detect and prevent cross-border crime, such as drug trafficking, as well as to contribute to saving migrants' lives at the external borders of the Schengen area. It provides a common mechanism for near-real time information exchange and interagency cooperation in the field of border surveillance. All national authorities with a responsibility for border surveillance (e.g. border guard, police, coast guard, navy) are required to coordinate their activities via national coordination centres with each other, with other Member States and with Frontex. EUROSUR follows an intelligence-driven approach, allowing national and EU agencies to better understand what is happening at the external borders and to respond faster to new routes and methods used by, for instance, drug smuggling criminal networks. The EUROSUR Regulation requires Member States and Frontex to fully comply with fundamental rights, in particular the non-refoulement principle and personal data protection.

State Police, Carabinieri, Coast Guard, Guardia di Finanza and the Navy work side-by-side in the Italian National Coordination Centre.

Photo provided by: Italian National Coordination Centre

Frontex situation centre

Photo provided by: Frontex

Information exchange

Member States and Frontex exchange with each other information via so-called 'situational pictures': The national coordination centres maintain national situational pictures, which contain information on:

  • Unauthorised border crossings and on incidents relating to a risk to migrants' lives;

  • Position and status of patrols;

  • Analytical reports and intelligence.

Access to information on military patrols assisting a law enforcement mission may be restricted on a need-to-know basis.

The Spanish national coordination centre reports to Frontex the interception of a speed boat smuggling drugs.

Photo provided by: Spanish National Coordination Centre

Photo provided by: Frontex

Frontex maintains on behalf of the Member States the European situational picture, covering the external land and sea borders of the Schengen area, the pre-frontier area and Frontex joint operations.

The information between the national coordination centres and Frontex is exchanged via the secured EUROSUR communication network, which is maintained by Frontex and allows for the near-real time exchange of information on incidents and other relevant information.

Interagency cooperation

The main role of the national coordination centre is to ensure

  • The timely exchange of information and cooperation between all national authorities with a responsibility for border surveillance, with other national coordination centres and with Frontex;

  • the timely exchange of information with other relevant authorities, such as the maritime search and rescue coordination centre.

Romanian national coordination centre.

Photo provided by: Romanian National Coordination Centre

Frontex cooperates with other EU agencies, such as the European Maritime Safety Agency and the EU Satellite Centre, which are providing Frontex with data derived from ship reporting systems and satellite imagery to detect small migrants' vessels earlier.

Joint response

EUROSUR will improve the ability of Member States to react not only to single incidents, but also to critical situations occurring at the external borders. For this purpose, Member States divide their external borders into border sections and – together with Frontex – attribute impact levels (one could also say risk levels). This approach allows to identify hotspots at the external borders and to provide support to the concerned authorities faster.

The Italian national coordination centre coordinates the deployment of additional resources (e.g. patrol vessels) to Lampedusa and, in case of high impact, also asks Frontex for support (e.g. European Border Guard Teams).

Please note that the border sections and impact levels shown above are only included for demonstration purposes.

Fundamental rights

Contribute to protecting and saving migrants' lives: The practice of travelling in small and unseaworthy vessels has dramatically increased the number of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. EUROSUR will help to better detect and track such vessels by improving the information exchange and interagency cooperation and by using surveillance tools, such as ship reporting systems and satellite imagery.

The EUROSUR Regulation also requires the timely exchange of information with the maritime search and rescue coordination centres, while fully respecting their competences under international law.

Hence the cooperation within EUROSUR is expected to contribute to reducing the unacceptable and tragic loss of lives of migrants in the mid-term, while ensuring that those in need will have the possibility to apply for asylum.

Italian Coast Guard

Photo provided by: Italian National Coordination Centre

Tragic events like the one of 3 October 2013 next to Lampedusa require a comprehensive European response. EUROSUR is part of these efforts which must go beyond, as it will be further outlined in the Commission report on the work of the Task Force Mediterranean.

The EUROSUR Regulation provides several safeguards concerning fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement to be applied by Member States and Frontex in the framework of EUROSUR:

Vulnerable persons: The EUROSUR Regulation stipulates that priority must be given to the special needs of children, unaccompanied minors, victims of human trafficking, persons in need of urgent medical assistance, persons in need of international protection, persons in distress at sea and other persons in a particularly vulnerable situation.

Non-refoulement: The EUROSUR Regulation reiterates that Member States and Frontex need to fully comply with the principles of non-refoulement and human dignity.

Personal data protection: The possibility for exchanging personal data in EUROSUR is very limited: At European level, Member States and Frontex are entitled only to exchange ship identification numbers. Any exchange of personal data between Member States and third countries is strictly limited to what is absolutely necessary (for examples to identify a boat in distress) and must be carried out in line with EU and national data protection rules.

Spanish national coordination centre.

Photo provided by: Spanish National Coordination Centre

Which data will be exchanged? The exchange of information in the framework of EUROSUR is limited to operational information, such as the location of incidents and patrols, and analysed information, for instance intelligence reports. As a general rule this information exchange cannot include personal data. If personal data is being exchanged in exceptional cases, the conditions set by the EU legal framework on data protection fully apply.

Participating countries

EUROSUR will apply to the 19 Schengen countries located at the southern sea and eastern land external borders from 2 December 2013. This includes 18 EU Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Spain) as well the Schengen associated country Norway.

EUROSUR will apply to 11 additional countries (the eight remaining EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden; and the three remaining Schengen associated countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland) as from 1 December 2014.

For Ireland and the United Kingdom, which do not take part in the Schengen cooperation and therefore also not in EUROSUR, specific provisions have been included in the EUROSUR Regulation, allowing for a regional cooperation.

Estimated costs

The cost estimates for EUROSUR amount to €244 million for 2014-2020, including costs for set-up, maintenance and personnel. These costs are almost fully covered by existing EU programmes under the current and next multiannual financial framework of the Union.

Useful links

Press release:

IP/13/1182

Infographics on EUROSUR

Audio-visual material on EUROSUR:

Link to Video

Link to Photos

Cecilia Malmström's website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter


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