What is Integrated Border Management?

Integrated Border Management, or IBM, is a concept of border management devised by the European Union that was first applied in the context of the EU’s support activities in the Western Balkans region during the period 2002-2006.

The need for agencies involved in border management – such as the border police and customs – to coordinate their work at national and international levels became increasingly apparent in the light of realities such as the expansion of the European Union (and Schengen zone) eastwards, the movement of migrants across borders in search of better socio-economic conditions or in flight from conflict, and the globalization of crime and the international economy.

The EU moved quickly to meet this need for greater coordination at its own external borders, and in 2004 created Frontex, an agency dedicated to “the management of operational cooperation at the external borders of the Member States of the European Union.”

Underpinning the idea of IBM is that individual border agencies are generally more effective when cooperation is in place. That means cooperation within the agency itself (intra-agency); between the various agencies involved in border management in the same country (inter-agency); and cooperation with the border agencies of neighbouring countries (international). Conversely, when cooperation is lacking in any of these three dimensions, effective border management is diminished.

IBM relies on striking the right balance between facilitation of legitimate movement of trade and travellers across borders, and controlling borders in order to identify and prevent cross-border crime. Ultimately, IBM should result in smoother, hassle-free, border crossing for travellers.

The EU’s own definition of IBM is: “National and international coordination and cooperation among all the relevant authorities and agencies involved in border security and trade facilitation to establish effective, efficient and coordinated border management, in order to reach the objective of open, but well controlled and secure borders”.