Frontex, officially named the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is a European Union (EU) agency responsible for coordinating border control efforts across various countries.
As a member of the EU, France benefits from the agency’s expertise and is involved in a number of its operations. Frontex also sets the standards that French border control must follow.
Discover how Frontex works and how it affects France and its borders.
EU Border Control, the Schengen Area, and FRONTEX
France is part of the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area. To understand Frontex, it is important to understand these organizations.
The EU is a union of 28 European countries with political and economic ties. They share an internal single market, various standardized laws, and trade policies. There is also a policy of free movement, allowing citizens from member states to live and work in any country in the union.
The Schengen Area is a related concept involving most EU countries as well as 4 European countries outside the EU (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein). Schengen countries take the free movement concept further by abolishing passport checks and border control between member states.
This means that once someone arrives in a Schengen country, they can travel freely through any and all other states in the Area without passing through border control (unless they pass into a non-Schengen country like the UK and then re-enter a Schengen country like France).
Border Control in the Schengen Area
Travelers can enter the Schengen Area:
- At a variety of airports across its member states
- By land via Schengen countries which share a land border with non-Schengen states
- By sea via member states with a coastline.
Because of the nature of the Schengen Area, border control in one member state protects not only that country, but all of the other countries in the zone.
Frontex was established to coordinate border control efforts across all Schengen countries. This involved establishing standard practices at border checks and organizing joint operations, such as the search and rescue efforts of Operation Triton in the Mediterranean Sea.
What Does Frontex Mean?
The name Frontex comes from the French “Frontières extérieures”, meaning “external borders”. This is due to the agency’s role in monitoring and responding to pressure on the external borders of the Schengen zone.
While the term “Frontex” is widely used, the official name is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
What Does Frontex Do?
Frontex operations fall into one of the following categories:
- Coordinating rapid response European Border Guard Teams to crises at borders
- Organizing complex joint operations, in which various member states provide staff
Rapid response teams may be deployed in response to a large number of migrants arriving suddenly at an external border.
Joint operations are initiated due to ongoing border problems, such as migrants and refugees attempting to cross into Europe by sea, many of whom have to be rescued.
Well-known joint operations include:
- Joint Operation Hermes
- Operation Triton
- Joint Operation Poseidon
- Joint Operation Themis
France has been involved in a number of these operations.
All Frontex operations are intelligence-driven. The agency continually collects and analyzes data from the European border. This information is used to plan the best possible responses to migratory pressure.
As such, ongoing work done by Frontex includes:
- Data analysis
- Research into border security technology and developing best practices
- Risk assessment
- Sharing information between border authorities
- Providing training for border control across all Schengen countries
Will Frontex Affect Traveling to France?
Frontex and its operations are unlikely to have any impact on anyone traveling to France, although people arriving from certain countries will have to pass through border control, which is standardized by the organization.
Visitors to France traveling from other Schengen countries will not have to pass through any passport checks or border control.
Those arriving in France from outside the Schengen Area will have to present their passport and any necessary travel documents upon arrival at the French border, as per Frontex guidelines.
Starting in late 2022, many nationalities will require an ETIAS visa waiver to enter France, while citizens of other countries will need a Schengen visa.
Discover who needs ETIAS to travel to France.
The advantage over a visa is that ETIAS can be obtained online by a simple application process, rather than needing to go in person to an embassy and stand in line.