26.2.2014 | Von:
Mechthild Baumann

Frontex — Questions and Answers

Die griechische Grenzpolizei überwacht die griechisch-türkische Grenze Members of the Greek border police at work monitoring the border between Greece and Turkey. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Who or What is Frontex?

Frontex is not a border policing body, but an agency of the European Union, founded on 1 May 2005 by the EC Regulation No 2007/2004. Frontex’s purpose is to contribute to the management of the EU’s external borders. The agency employs independent contract workers as well as so-called Seconded National Workers who are employed and sent by the Member States.


What is an agency?

An agency is an independent body of European public law and hence operates separately from the Community institutions (Council, Parliament, Commission, etc.). Agencies support the EU by implementing its policies, particularly for administration and research.

What does Frontex do?

Frontex's [1] stated target is to ensure that “Europe’s borders remain open and secure”. To this end, Frontex has three central tasks: 1. to analyze, 2. to coordinate, and 3. to support:
  1. Analysis
    Frontex collects data and information on illegal migration and international criminal activities, such as human trafficking or smuggling of goods, and seeks to analyze them.
    To do this, Frontex works with an intelligence-led approach, very much like the European police authority, Europol. The intelligence-led investigative method (“intelligence-led policing”) was developed in the USA in the 1990s. This method attempts to identify the risks of law violations through a detailed analysis of hazardous situations in an effort to hinder criminal activity instead of reacting to the law violations themselves. Instead of just stopping illegal border crossings, Frontex seeks “to identify the ‘risks’ for anything that might affect border security” through thorough data collection and analysis.[2]
    Moreover, Frontex sees its role in connecting the national authorities responsible for controlling external borders in the EU with the “world of research and industry”. This means bringing companies that develop surveillance and control technology together in cooperation with border management experts and initiating further research on border management.

  2. Coordination
    As Frontex itself does not exercise police authority, the agency coordinates the deployment of the Member States’ border police. The European Patrols Network is an example of this. To coordinate the border management efforts in the Mediterranean Sea, Frontex has determined which institutions and organizations in the EU Mediterranean countries are in charge of border management. Fifty different authorities connected to 30 different ministries are involved in this, including not only the police and Ministry of the Interior, but also customs, fisheries authorities and the coast guards. Frontex has brought all of these institutions together and supports them so that they are better able to coordinate their efforts.

  3. Support
    On the basis of the risks determined through analysis, Frontex then plans the assistance of the national border police forces sent by the EU Member States. The border management agency also regards the efforts to save refugees from drowning on the high seas as one of its responsibilities (for a criticism of Frontex, see below).
Moreover, Frontex engages in the training of border guards. Together with the Member States, Frontex develops training curricula and then trains the trainers who then function as “multipliers” and pass on the training to others. This is to ensure that the border police officers are sufficiently prepared when a joint operation becomes necessary.


Frontex's tasks, according to the Frontex Regulation, include

  1. Coordination of Member States in joint operations in the field of external border management;
  2. Assisting Member States in training of national border guards, including the establishment of common training standards;
  3. Carrying out risk analyses;
  4. Following up on the developments of relevant research for the control and surveillance of external borders;
  5. Assisting Member States in circumstances requiring increased technical and operative assistance at external borders;
  6. Providing Member States with the necessary support in organizing joint return operations

The Structure of Frontex

Frontex’s headquarters is located in Warsaw and consists of three major departments: Operations, Capacities and Administration. In the Operations department, the joint efforts of the border police forces are coordinated. The Capacities department is in charge of research and training, and the Administrative department is responsible for finances, personnel and IT.

Table 1: Selected Frontex Operations in 2012Table 1: Selected Frontex Operations in 2012 (© Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), German Agency for Civic Education, Network Migration in Europe e.V.)

How Large is Frontex's Budget?

Since its founding, the EU has almost continually increased Frontex’s budget. Between 2009 and 2013, the yearly budget leveled off at between 90 and 118 million euro. In comparison, Europol’s budget climbed from 49 million euro in 2002 to 91 million Euro in 2010, but since then has been reduced again down to 83 million euro in 2013.

Why is Frontex an Agency and not a Border Police Force?

Put simply, Frontex is not a European border police force because the EU is not a state. A police body’s tasks, among others, include the avoidance and prevention of crime. Because the police act on behalf of the state as the “long arm of the law”, they are also allowed to exercise force on citizens when preventing crime. This legal relationship between state and citizen as such does not exist for the EU. The EU has specific competencies, however may not apply the use of force on EU citizens in fulfilling those competencies. Because of this, there are no European border police. Instead, Frontex is the administrative agency that implements the (limited) competencies that the EU has in border policies.

Budget of Frontex and Europol 2005 - 2013Budget of Frontex and Europol 2005 - 2013 (© bpb)

But There are in Fact European Border Guards!

Yes and no. There are “European Border Guard Teams” (EBGT) whose composition and nature resemble that of the international police missions which also act “under the EU flag” and are composed of police officers from various Member States.

This works exactly the same way with Frontex. Although the border police officers join forces, they are still police officers from the individual EU Member States. Therefore, during such a joint mission, the law that is in effect is that of the state in whose territory the operation takes place. For example, when German and French police officers support their Greek counterparts, they do so according to Greek law. This means, however, that only the Greek police officers are allowed to exercise coercive measures such as the use of firearms because the mission takes place on Greek territory and the police officers from the other countries are only “guests”.

Why does the EU have a Border Regime and Frontex?

This question cannot be clearly answered because there are diverging views on the usefulness and tasks of Frontex. The creation of a border regime with its own agency is most easily understood with a look into the past.

This text is part of the policy brief on "Frontex and the EU Border Regime".


Frontex video at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-rIlXq5wOQ (accessed 9-11-2013)
Creative Commons License

Dieser Text ist unter der Creative Commons Lizenz "CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DE - Namensnennung - Nicht-kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 3.0 Deutschland" veröffentlicht. Autor/-in: Mechthild Baumann für bpb.de

Sie dürfen den Text unter Nennung der Lizenz CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DE und des/der Autors/-in teilen.
Urheberrechtliche Angaben zu Bildern / Grafiken / Videos finden sich direkt bei den Abbildungen.



Länderprofile Migration: Daten - Geschichte - Politik

Ein Länderprofil enthält Informationen über Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration in einem bestimmten Land. Diese Informationen bestehen aus: Daten und Statistiken, Geschichtlichen Entwicklungen, Rechtlichen und politischen Maßnahmen, Aktuellen Debatten in den Ländern.

Mehr lesen


Zahlen zu Asyl in Deutschland

Wie viele Menschen suchen in Deutschland Asyl? Woher kommen sie? Wie viele Asylanträge sind erfolgreich? Und wie viele Menschen werden abgeschoben? Wir stellen die wichtigsten Zahlen zum Thema Asyl und Flucht monatlich aktualisiert in einfachen Infografiken dar.

Mehr lesen