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EU Supports Stronger Border Management in Turkey

The European Commission is working on new measures for a common approach to managing Europe's external borders and preserving the security of the internal Schengen area of free movement. In that respect, priorities of the European Commission in this field are:

- developing smart borders with the establishment of an Entry-Exit System to speed-up, facilitate and reinforce border check procedures for non-EU nationals travelling to the EU,

- and establishing a European Border and Coast Guard.

Border management policy is an area where the EU requires, among others, specialised and professional staff in charge of managing borders under an integrated border management (IBM) system. IBM is instrumental for efficiency at border procedures in terms of facilitating flows of goods and persons while ensuring security.  Intra-agency, inter-agency and international coordination are key elements for IBM.

In Turkey, there are currently nearly 20 authorities and/or institutions responsible for several border management issues (mainly DG for Migration Management, Police, and Customs Enforcement for border crossing points, Land Forces Command for land borders, Coast Guard for sea borders), which makes cooperation and coordination a challenge.

Turkey is committed to an extensive reform process in this area since 2002 and is substantially supported by the EU in this endeavour. The IBM strategy and subsequent action plan adopted in 2003 and 2006, respectively, target establishing a single, non-military border security authority according to EU Schengen Borders Code and recommendations as stipulated in the Schengen Catalogue of Recommendations.

Border management is an important element also within the scope of EU-Turkey cooperation on migration. The EU has been supporting Turkey in efforts to strengthen its capacity for managing migratory flows and establishing an effective and efficient border management system.

In terms of financial assistance, border management is a highly costly area, with investments needed in good infrastructure with sophisticated high-technology equipment. The EU has been supporting capacity building of the current institutions and, in parallel, has been providing assistance for the establishment of the future structure. Turkish authorities are implementing several large projects – both in size and budget – with EU co-funding to upgrade the border management infrastructure.

EU projects support humanitarian and modern border management tools and capacity building of the border staff. For example, the EU helps Turkey demine its Eastern borders and strengthen the mobile and fixed surveillance capacity at all land borders with trainings and supply of equipment of the latest technology. Additionally, the EU funds the equipment of the Turkish Coast Guard for stronger maritime surveillance and supports border management cooperation among Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. The EU has also supported capacity-building of the Police and Customs to combat illegal border crossings. Inter-agency cooperation is another priority area with a view to set up structured coordination and cooperation mechanisms among all border authorities. The EU cooperates with Turkey, moreover, on developing the new generation of electronic passports.

EU projects complement significant national projects, such as the modernization of most border crossing points through public-private partnerships in cooperation mainly with the Turkish Chambers of Commerce, the reconstruction of border stations and patrol roads with illumination and fencing at the land borders, the building of new observation towers and command centers, or the establishment of a country-wide radar network system for the Coast Guards to improve surveillance of maritime borders. 

FRONTEX, the EU agency for borders, has signed with Turkey a “memorandum of understanding” in May 2012, followed in February 2014 by a renewable "action plan for cooperation," comprising steps to take in a two-year period.  A liaison officer has been appointed to work in Turkey to better implement the action plan. 

Turkey’s efforts to harmonise the border management system with the EU acquis and recommendations cover following three dimensions:

  1. Setting up a new non-military, professional border security organisation specialised in border checks of persons at the border crossing points and border surveillance at the green and blue borders.
  2. Forming an integrated border management (IBM) system, under which cooperation and coordination mechanisms are structured among the relevant border authorities.
  3. Strengthening the border management capacity by modernising the infrastructure, equipment and training of the border staff.