Members' Research Service By / March 24, 2023

The EU’s external borders: Key trends and developments

The gradual phasing-out of checks at internal borders within the EU was accompanied and preconditioned by the strengthening of the EU’s external borders.

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Written by Costica Dumbrava.

The effective management of the EU’s external borders is a prerequisite for creating the EU area of freedom, security and justice. In response to an unprecedented influx of refugees and immigrants into Europe in the 2015-2016 period, the EU took steps to strengthen the management of its external borders, and to reform the common European asylum system.

Several major challenges have affected the EU’s external borders in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed Member States to adopt extraordinary border measures, including temporary restrictions of non-essential travel into the EU. The pandemic also affected efforts to implement key EU measures aiming to strengthen the external borders, including the strengthening of Frontex and the expansion of EU-wide information systems for borders and security. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine generated a new wave of refugees and revealed new vulnerabilities concerning EU borders. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the surge in the number of asylum seekers and irregular migrants has put new pressure on the EU’s external borders. Attempts by third countries to instrumentalise irregular migrants in order to put pressure on the EU has meanwhile created additional hurdles.

Faced with these multiple and overlapping challenges, the EU has intensified its efforts to reform its migration and asylum policies, notably by slowly working through the proposals included in the new pact on migration and asylum. It has also continued to implement measures that have already been agreed on to make up for delays caused by the pandemic.

This briefing discusses key recent trends and figures and provides an overview of EU policy developments relating to the management of the EU’s external borders.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The EU’s external borders: Key trends and developments‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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