EMN Austria National Conference “Opportunities and Challenges in the Management of EU’s External Borders”

Organizer: EMN Austria

26 September 2023, Vienna

The management of EU’s external borders and the Schengen system have been high on the political agenda in EU Member States and at the EU level for several years. In line with Article 3(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the EU aims to establish common standards for controls at its external borders, and to gradually put in place an integrated system for managing them. Border management has also been addressed in different policy documents, strategies, and proposals by the European Commission aiming to respond to challenges which have emerged.

This year’s EMN Austria National Conference provided room for discussion on the effective and humanitarian protection of EU’s external borders, shortcomings of the Schengen system, sustainable solutions for maritime borders (Search & Rescue) and preventing “instrumentalization of migration“. Distinguished speakers from various backgrounds shared their expertise with the aim to present the status quo as well as recent policy and legal developments of EU’s external borders. Selected policy makers, practitioners and experts discussed the management of EU’s external borders from a practical perspective and fostered a discussion on cooperation and capacity building in third countries in the areas of migration management, return and readmissions.

PART I: Recent developments concerning the protection of EU’s external borders

Part I of the conference provided a comprehensive overview of key EU policies, action plans, strategies and support measures relevant for the management and protection of EU’s external borders including the state of play of relevant proposals by the European Commission. Furthermore, the status quo, recent developments, and challenges of EU’s external borders from a practical perspective were discussed. Particular focus was given to mixed migration flows and the “instrumentalization of migration” for political purposes. 

PART II: External border protection – legal framework and principles at the EU and international level

Part II of the conference looked into the applicable legal framework of border protection and outlined the state of play of relevant legislative developments in the context of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum from a practical point of view.  The new mandatory border procedure and on compatibility of secure borders and human rights-compliant border controls/procedures on land and in the sea were also discussed.

PART III: Border protection – practical / operational aspects

Part III of the conference delved into the operational challenges of border protection and how (new) technology and infrastructure are used in the protection of EU’s external borders. In this context, the controversial political discussion on physical barriers and the financing of infrastructures were addressed.

PART IV: Cooperation with third countries

Part IV of the conference looked at the operational cooperation and capacity building in third countries. Cooperation agreements between the EU and third countries were reviewed. It was discussed how these could be a blueprint for future agreements with other third countries and how third country cooperation in the areas of migration management, return and readmission could be further strengthened. Moreover, cooperation with third countries in Search and Rescue was addressed.