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European external border surveillance system (EUROSUR)

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European external border surveillance system (EUROSUR)

The Commission outlines a three-phase common technical framework for setting up a "European border surveillance system" (EUROSUR) designed to support the Member States in their efforts to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the European Union by improving their situational awareness at their external borders and increasing the reaction capability of their information and border control authorities.


Communication of 13 February 2008 from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Examining the creation of a European border surveillance system (EUROSUR) [COM(2008) 68 final - Not yet published in the Official Journal].


The Communication examines the parameters within which a European border surveillance system (EUROSUR), focusing initially on the Union's southern and eastern maritime borders, could be developed, and proposes a roadmap for setting up such a "system of systems" over the next few years. It focuses on enhancing border surveillance in order to:

  • reduce the number of illegal immigrants who enter the European Union undetected;
  • reduce the number of deaths of illegal immigrants by saving more lives at sea;
  • increase the internal security of the EU as a whole by contributing to the prevention of cross-border crime.

A European border surveillance system (EUROSUR) should help the Member States achieve full awareness of the situation at their external borders and enhance the reaction capability of their law enforcement services. "Situational awareness" measures the capability of the authorities to detect cross-border movements and find reasoned grounds for control measures; "reaction capability" measures the lapse of time required to control any cross-border movement and the time and means necessary to react adequately to unusual circumstances.

EUROSUR would provide the common technical framework required to rationalise cooperation and 24-hour communication between the Member States' authorities and foster the use of cutting-edge technologies for border surveillance. One essential operational objective must be to create an information-sharing (excluding personal data) environment among national and European systems.

EUROSUR could be implemented in three phases:

PHASE 1: Interconnect and rationalise border surveillance systems at national level.

External Borders Fund credits could be used to modernise and expand national border surveillance systems and create national external border control coordination centres in the Member States forming the eastern and southern maritime borders of the EU.

A secured computerised communication network should be set up to exchange data and facilitate the coordination of activities between national centres and with FRONTEX.

Consideration should also be given to means of providing financial and logistical assistance to certain neighbouring third countries to promote operational cooperation with the Member States in border surveillance.

PHASE 2: Improve the performance of surveillance tools at EU level.

European research and development programmes could be targeted towards improving the performance of surveillance tools and sensors (e.g. satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles / UAVs, etc.).

Moreover, the shared application of surveillance tools could provide Member States' authorities with more frequent and more reliable surveillance information on their external borders and pre-frontier area.

Finally, a common pre-frontier intelligence picture could be established, combining the information provided by intelligence services and surveillance tools.

PHASE 3: Creation of a common monitoring and information-sharing environment for the EU maritime domain.

The objective here would be to integrate into a broader network all existing sectoral systems reporting and monitoring traffic and activities in sea areas under the jurisdiction of the Member States and in adjacent high seas, thus allowing border control authorities to take advantage of the integrated use of these various systems.

Taking into account current migratory pressure, this integrated network should initially be limited to the Mediterranean, the South Atlantic (Canary Islands) and the Black Sea and focus on internal security, linking border control authorities and other authorities with security responsibilities in the maritime domain.

Ultimately, this integrated network of reporting and surveillance systems could be expanded to the EU's entire maritime domain, going beyond border-related aspects to cover all maritime activities, including maritime safety, protection of the marine environment, fisheries control and law enforcement.

Phases 1 and 2 should be limited to external land and sea borders, while Phase 3 should focus exclusively on the maritime domain. The aspects of this Communication dealing with surveillance of external maritime borders form part of the overall framework set by the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union.

Once implemented, EUROSUR would constitute a decisive step in the further gradual establishment of a common European integrated border management system. When implementing the different measures described in this Communication, the External Borders Fund should be the main solidarity mechanism for the Member States in sharing the financial burden in the European Union.

Last updated: 14.03.2008