Frontex is an EU agency responsible for coordinating border control between member states of the European Union and other countries in the Schengen Area. It is officially known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Its headquarters are based in Warsaw, Poland.
The name “Frontex” comes from “Frontières extérieures” — French for “external borders”. The external borders of the Schengen Area are monitored and coordinated by the organization.
Read on to find out how Frontex works and how it can affect travel to and around Europe.
What Is the Role of Frontex?
Frontex has a number of roles in helping EU and Schengen countries to maintain border control, facilitating travel, while strengthening security.
Frontex conducts research and data analysis on:
- border control
- international crime
It shares this information with member countries, establishing standards and coordinating best practices for the borders of the EU.
In response to pressure at external borders, such as an influx of increased migration, Frontex provides additional support and coordinates response teams of specially-trained border staff from the member states.
Frontex also uses its resources to work to prevent cross-border crime, such as smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism.
What Operations Does Frontex Oversee?
Some of Frontex’s many roles include:
- Data analysis — Frontex analyses situations at EU external borders and beyond.
- Risk assessment — using analyzed data on trends in irregular migration and cross-border criminal activity, Frontex assesses risks to border security. It then shares its findings with member states and the EU Commission.
- Organizing and coordinating joint operations — Frontex coordinates staff and equipment being deployed from more than one place to border areas in need of assistance.
- Rapid response — Frontex manages the deployment of European Border Guard Teams to manage migratory pressure (large numbers of migrants arriving and overwhelming local border control), humanitarian emergencies, rescue at sea, etc.
- Common training for border authorities across the EU — border authorities in different countries work better together with the same training and this also creates uniform border standards for all travelers entering the EU.
- Joint returns — Frontex coordinates the returning of migrants who cannot stay in the EU, often working with non-EU countries to achieve this. It establishes best practices for all EU countries.
- Research — border control experts work together with industry to improve borders with the best practices and technology.
- Information-sharing — this ensures border authorities in different countries all have the most up-to-date information.
- Working with other law enforcement and EU agencies — for example, while deploying aircraft and vessels, Frontex may collect and share information on fishing control, pollution, and maritime regulation with the relevant authorities.
Border Control in Europe
When visiting Europe, it is important to remember that there is a difference between the continent of Europe, the European Union (EU), and the Schengen Area.
Europe consists of the continental land north of the Mediterranean Sea, separated from Asia by the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the Turkish Straits. It also includes the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland, and a number of smaller islands belonging to the sovereign state of Europe.
There are 51 countries located either entirely or partly in Europe, with 44 having their capital located there.
The European Union is an organization of 28 European countries which are linked economically and politically.
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries, most of which are also EU members, who share a common travel area. Within the Schengen Area, migrants may pass freely from country to country, without any border checks.
Countries outside the EU and Schengen Area are responsible for their own border control.
Among those within the Schengen Area, only those sharing external borders with non-EU countries must maintain border control.
Frontex helps to coordinate border control efforts and standards across EU members and non-EU Schengen countries. Certain EU members outside the Schengen Area, such as the UK and Ireland, control their own borders, but may participate in Frontex operations and attend Management Board meetings (albeit without the right to vote).
How Does Frontex Affect My Visit to Europe?
Travelers visiting countries outside of the EU and Schengen Area, such as Russia, will not come across Frontex at all. However, they will have to meet the individual requirements and present the relevant documentation for each country they visit.
Travelers visiting only countries in the Schengen Area will have to cross a Frontex-regulated border just once (when they arrive). Currently, non-EU nationals need a Schengen Visa to enter these countries.
In the near future, the ETIAS visa waiver for Americans will make the process of entering the Schengen area even easier for citizens of the USA. ETIAS will also improve border management, helping Frontex to maintain security.
Learn more about when ETIAS will be implemented for US citizens.
However, some EU member states, such as Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom are not part of the Schengen Area. This means that non-EU nationals will need to obtain the relevant documentation to visit these countries. These states maintain their own border control but may collaborate with Frontex.
That being said, as long as the traveler to Europe has the correct documentation, Frontex operations should have no impact on the visit. other than to check your visa and welcome you to Europe.