European Cooperation on Coast Guard Functions


Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, stands at the centre of Europe’s efforts to expand international cooperation on carrying out various coast guard functions. In addition to border control, these include: maritime safety, security, search and rescue, fisheries control, customs, law enforcement and environmental protection.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency was created on the foundations of Frontex, an EU agency that had worked closely with national coast guard agencies since its launch 11 years ago. Joint maritime operations continue to account for the largest share of the budget of the new agency. Spending on them already surpasses 100 million euros annually, almost four times the amount Frontex had spent on sea operations just two years earlier.

Its extensive presence at EU maritime borders makes Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, an ideal platform to facilitate cooperation between national law enforcement, customs and other authorities operating in the maritime domain and European agencies as part of European Integrated Border Management.

In multi-purpose operations, vessels and aircraft deployed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency cooperate with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to spot sea pollution and other possible violations of maritime conventions. Alongside the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), Frontex collects and shares information to be used to detect illegal fishing.

The implementation of the agency’s multipurpose concept for operations has been significantly reinforced in 2016 with the first deployment of EFCA fisheries control inspectors in three different joint maritime operations. Frontex also deployed its expert at the EFCA operational centre for the first time and the two agencies have jointly developed standard operational procedures that will serve as a basis for future multipurpose operations. Frontex also plans to share operational information with EFCA and EMSA gathered by surveillance aircraft leased by the agency in multipurpose missions.

The agency also closely cooperates with Europol and law enforcement bodies of Member States to combat serious cross-border crime, including trafficking of human beings and terrorism.

Another essential coast guard function is conducting search and rescue operations. Frontex has helped save hundreds of thousands of migrants stranded at sea. Now, operational and technical assistance to search and rescue is an integral part of the mandate of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

The new agency has established the European Coast Guard Cooperation Network, which builds on the legacy of the European Patrols Network. The new network brings together various European and international authorities in the maritime arena. It will embrace new fields more oriented toward law enforcement at sea in the areas related to border management, migration, combatting cross-border crime, prevention of terrorism and search and rescue.

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