Transformation of the European Border Regime

FRONTEX and Operation HERA

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2011 16 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: European Union


Table of Contents


1. The Schengen Aquis
a. Background
b. New Borders?

a. Organisation
b. Mission
c. Operations

3. HERA Paradigm
a. Internal Consequences for Border Regime
b. External Consequences


Legal Foundations
Research Papers
Press Articles
Online Resources


The last decade saw the establishment of an European Union agency, FRONTEX, which was made in charge of the common border security polity established by the Schengen aquis which abolished all internal borders for the free movement of persons. Taking this development and its results under scrutiny, this paper will try to give an answer to the following research question: How does the actual application of the Schengen aquis by institutionalizing it in an agency (FRONTEX) affect or transform the border regimes of Member States in particular and the European Union in general? The methodology will consist of an analysis of the legal and deriving organizational design of the agency itself, and as well in describing the operational design of a distinctive FRONTEX deployment. Taking a closer look at the FRONTEX operations HERA I, II and III in particular shall help to define the characteristics and implications of its results in promulgating a paradigm which points out to the result the ongoing transformation of the European border security regime.

While being aware of the incentives to create agencies lie in their supposed apolitical nature and ability to maintain policy continuity, which might also apply for the establishment of FRONTEX as an European Union agency[1], the notorious and critical acclaim this institution faces in the media is another incentive to take as a first step of the analysis a closer look at the historic and legal roots of the agency, starting with a short wrap-up of the history and characteristics of Schengen aquis and its impact on the European border regime so far. This will be followed by the already announced description of the organization of FRONTEX and how the agency performs while fulfilling its tasks, in this case in the operations HERA I, II and III in the years 2006 and 2007. From this descriptive part a paradigm will be drawn which serves as the backcloth for the conclusion which finalizes the paper in giving an answer on if and how the European border regime is to transform.

1. The Schengen Aquis

The initial idea of the Schengen Agreement from 1985 was to make the territories of all participating states into on an area within which a person can move freely. So all internal borders of such a ‘Schegen’ area would be abolished, a single external border had to established. All the developments since then refer to that basic idea, at least according to the official European Union publications which will be the main reference for the descriptive part in this chapter.[2]

a. Background

In the 1980s there was dissent among the then European Community’s Member States regarding the internal border regime which was a spill-over issue related to the implementation and manifestation of the Common Market regime. Some felt that free movement of people only referred to European citizens, so internal border controls for filtering out non-European persons should remain, others wanted to abolish internal border controls in favor of a common external border regime. A final initiative was backed by France, Germany, and the BeNeLux states, so they moved forward on their own and formed the intergovernmental agreement as ‘Schengen area’ without internal borders. ‘Compensatory’ measures were a deepened cooperation of police forces and judicial authorities. In order to counter organized crime and other internal security threats, a database and a network connecting it to Member State agencies was established, the Schengen Information System (SIS), which reached operational in 1995 and since then has frequently been enhanced in its technological and functional capabilities. The example set by the founding states generated followers: Italy joined 1990, Spain and Portugal in 1991, Greece 1992, Austria 1995, Denmark, Finland and Sweden followed 1996, including their partners from the Nordic Passport Union, Norway and Iceland; the United Kingdom partly cooperates within Schengen since 1999, Ireland does the same since 2000; on 21 December 2007 the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia joined; in 2008 Switzerland became an associated country. The Schengen aquis triggered the police and judicial cooperation and integration process in the European Union.

b. New Borders?

In the cradle of the European integration process lies the impulse of changing the nature of the borders between the Member States. In that sense, the Schengen system established in the 1990s as a veritable column in the temple of agreements and legal achievements constructed by the aquis communautaire is only a step in a process of peaceful erosion national borders experience since the sectoral integration started in the 1950s.[3] But erosion is only a term suitable for application on the transformation of the internal borders. The external borders of the Schengen area do not erode, in compensating the national border regimes the European border policy is an innovation per se. But in this innovation lies the risk of creating new barriers, e. g. if former COMECON-states freshly after accession to the European Union and the Schengen area have to erect barriers to non-EU countries and regions they traditionally entertain intensive cross-border trade relations.[4] Ruben Zaiotti could not help it but compare the Schengen area and its policies with a ‘Gated Community’ residential area.[5] A culture which emphasizes internal security for the Member States of the European Union provides the contradicting tendencies of a gated community ‘syndrome’: If the primary aim is to signal security to the in-group, a gated community consequentially signals distrust to the ‘neighbours’ outside the fence. That syndrome has been caught by the Schengen states as well. Zaiotti continues his argument by stating that the Schengen aquis from its very beginning established something “[…] what [he] call[s] a ‘Schengen culture of internal security’.”[6] This culture consists of the following traits: The blurring of external and internal security, pushing transgovernmental modes of decision-making to the threshold of supranationality in order to empower the Commission and the Council with executive competencies in the field of justice and home affairs, the pre-emptive approach of countering threats to internal security right at their external source and the tendency to instrumentalize third countries for the task of countering those threats in a fashion which can be defined as ‘remote control policies’. In that sense, Schengen exemplifies a merged field of policy uniting foreign affairs and international relations with concerns of interior security.


[1] Léonard, Sarah (2008): “Frontex: The EU External Border Agency – Exploring the Nature of the Beast”, 49th Annual International Studies Association Convention Paper, San Francisco, pp. 3 – 4.

[2] Retrieved from: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33020_en.htm, accessed on January 26, 2011.

[3] Comelli, Michele / Greco, Ettore / Tocci, Nathalie (2007): “From Boundary to Borderland: Transforming the Meaning of Borders through the European Neighbourhood Policy”, in: European Foreign Affairs Review 12/2007, p. 205.

[4] Ibid., p. 210.

[5] Zaiotti, Ruben (2006): “Of Friends and Fences: Europe’s Neighbourhood Policy and the ‘Gated Community Syndrome’, 47th Annual International Studies Association Convention Paper, San Diego, pp. 4 – 5.

[6] Ibid., pp. 19 - 20.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Institution / College
University of Southern Denmark – Department of Border Region Studies
FRONTEX Schengener Abkommen




Title: Transformation of the European Border Regime