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EU-Macedonia deal to deploy border guards to curb migration

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will have presence in the areas of Macedonia that border the EU.

imitris Avramopoulos

The European Union says it has struck a deal with Macedonia to allow border guards to be deployed if the non-EU Balkan state faces "sudden migratory challenges".

The announcement came on Wednesday as Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner, and Macedonian Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski initialled the deal for sending guards from the bloc to landlocked Macedonia and conducting joint operations.

The deal will be signed formally at a later date once it clears legal hurdles and is endorsed by the European Parliament, said the Commission, the EU's executive arm.

Once the agreement enters into force, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will be able to carry out operational activities and deploy teams in the regions of Macedonia that border the EU. 

"This agreement will allow the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to fully exercise its potential, reacting swiftly to migratory challenges and protecting our common borders," Avramopoulos said in a statement.

New name, new agreement

Cooperation is easier since Macedonia reached an agreement with EU-member Greece last month to rename the country to Republic of North Macedonia in a bid to resolve a bitter dispute that has poisoned relations between the two neighbours since 1991.

The new name must still be approved in a referendum in Macedonia later this year, as well as ratified by the Greek parliament.

Macedonia lies north of Greece, west of EU-member Bulgaria, and east of non-EU member Albania, which signed a cooperation deal with the bloc in February.

Negotiations for similar deals are ongoing with non-EU Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

EU border and coastguard officers are due to increase to 1,300 personnel at the end of the year from 300 personnel in 2014.

The Commission has proposed expanding numbers further to 10,000 staff.

The EU has slashed the number of asylum seekers and migrants entering the bloc by sealing cooperation deals with transit countries Turkey and Libya.

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