Brussels - The European Union and Albania signed a deal Friday to increase border cooperation and expand the reach of the EU's border and coast guard agency, known as Frontex.
Under the agreement, Frontex may take action not only at the EU's external border with Albania but on Albanian territory, as long as it has Pristina's permission.
European border protection deal
Frontex would focus primarily on illegal migration and cross-border crimes.
The signatories were EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj, and Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
Friday's announcement marks the first official deal of this kind with a third country, but two draft agreements have also been struck. On September 20, the EU concluded one with Serbia, and on July 18, with Macedonia.
In addition, negotiations are ongoing with Montenegro and Bosnia.
Increase in staff
The news comes on the heels of a new European Commission proposal to increase Frontex staffing from the current 1,500 to 10,000 by 2020.
The Balkan region has been the focus of migration-policy debates. Three years ago, the Balkan route was one of the main corridors for the more than 1 million migrants who reached Western Europe.
Even though the route has all but been shut down since early 2016 through coordinated border closure measures, thousands of migrants still manage to pass through.