The EU is working to improve the protection of its external borders as part of its comprehensive approach to migration. EU ambassadors today confirmed on behalfof the Council the informal agreement reached between representatives of the European Parliament and the Romanian Presidency of the Council on a regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard. The new rules now need to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.„Stronger external border protection is essential for a safer Schengen area and a more efficient management of migration. The new rules will allow Frontex to provide faster, more efficient support to member states on a numberof tasks, including border controls and returning those without a right to stay.” Carmen Daniela Dan, Romanian minister of internal affairsThe European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) is being strengthened in terms of staff and technical equipment. It is also being given a broader mandate to support member states’ activities on border protection, return and cooperation with third countries. The proposed new rules will incorporate the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into the Frontex framework, to improve its functioning.Standing corps of border and coast guards and return expertsTo ensure coherent management of external borders and to be able to respond to crisis situations, a standing corps will be set up, with up to 10 000 operational staff by 2027. This standing corps will include operational staff members from Frontex, from the member states under long term secondments or deployed for a short time, and a reserve for rapid reaction.Deployments of the standing corps will take placeas of 1 January 2021. To be able to adapt to future situations and capabilities the European Commission will, by 31 December 2023, present to the Council and the European Parliament a review of the overall number and composition of the standing corps. TheCommission will then, where necessary, present proposals by March 2024 to amend the number, composition and member states’ contributions to the corps.Member states will retain primary responsibility for the management of their borders, with Frontex and its staff providing technical and operational assistance subject to the agreement of the member states concerned. Under the proposed new rules, staff of the standing corps deployed to a member state will be able to exercise executive powers to carry out border controls or return tasks, always subject to the authorisation of the host member state, including the use of force and weapons.ReturnsThe proposed rules will allow Frontex to provide technical and operational support to member states in return operations.The agency will provide support at the request of the member state concerned or on its own initiative and in agreement with the member state concerned. This support will cover all areas of return, from preparatory activities to return, post-return and post-arrival activities. It also includes assisted voluntary return and assistance of member states in the identification of third country nationals and the acquisition of travel documents.Cooperation with third countriesThe proposed rules will contribute to strengthening cooperation with third countries, by giving the agency wider scope for action and not limiting its possibilities for cooperation to neighbouring countries.This includes the possibility of concluding status agreements between the EU and third countries (limited to neighbouring countries under current rules), which would allow for the deployment of border management teams from Frontex and for operations in the territory of third countries.The agency will also be able to deploy expertsas liaison officers, who will form part of the local or regional cooperation networks of immigration liaison officers and security experts of the EU and the member states. Priority will be given to the deployment of liaison officers in countries of originand transit.BackgroundOn 12 September 2018, the Commission proposed an updated mandate for the European Border and Coast Guard, with the aim of further improving the control of the EU’s external borders.