News | 15 Mar, 2024

Enhancing collaboration at European Union borders

Officers from customs, animal and plant health authorities, and environmental authorities convened in Brussels on 14 March for an event focusing on improving border controls for Invasive Alien Species. Effective border controls are a key element in preventing their introduction into the European Union. This event was jointly organised by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

A major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services 

Alien species are animals, plants or other organisms introduced by human activities outside their natural geographic range. Some of these species are able to establish and spread in their new environments, where they can have serious impacts on biodiversity. They are called Invasive Alien Species, and can also affect economies, food security, human health and wellbeing.

The recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) assessment on Invasive Alien Species shows that they are a major cause of native species declines and extinctions across all regions of the globe. Their impact on ecosystem services, such as water or food supply, is also extremely high. 

The costs of invasive alien species, including their management and mitigation of damages, are exorbitant, and estimated to be over 115 billion euros in Europe between 1960 and 2020. 

The EU policy response and the key role of border controls

The European Union is fully committed to protecting its biological diversity from Invasive Alien Species by preventing, minimising, and mitigating their introduction and spread. Since 2015, Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 has established the regulatory framework for taking action against priority Invasive Alien Species called species of Union concern, which currently includes 47 animals and 41 plants. This regulation requires Member States to take specific measures to prevent their intentional and unintentional introduction into the European Union, with border control agents acting as the first line of defense.

The event provided an excellent opportunity for officials from 17 Member States working for customs, plant or animal health authorities, and environmental authorities, to gather and assess progress made, as well as identify challenges and needs, across various areas related to border controls.

The need to foster collaboration at EU level

The ever-increasing global trade represents a major pathway of introduction of Invasive Alien Species, and poses challenges for border controls. The discussions held during the event identified these main challenges and the key needs of Member States associated with trade and the risk of Invasive Alien Species introductions. 

One of these was the need to develop innovative tools to support inspections such as risk imports analysis, and a correct and prompt identification of the species of Union concern. This, along with the design and use of appropriate training materials, should allow for effective actions to be taken rapidly. Importantly, enhanced opportunities for collaboration between public authorities involved in border controls, both within and between Member States, was also shown to be pivotal. 


“Invasive alien species are a major driver of biodiversity loss in Europe, and lead to huge economic losses. We need to work together at the EU level to better prevent and manage the spread of invasive alien species. This event shows that collaborating on this has real added value where custom authorities can make a big difference in preventing introductions.”

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries 

“It is precisely because these species know no borders that we need to respond, together with all Member States, and prevent them being introduced into the European Union. Border officials must be able to base their checks on clear, operational procedures. It's also important for them to have the scientific tools needed for rapid detection of invasive alien species." 

Belgian Federal Minister of Climate, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal 

“Invasive alien species are one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss across Europe, and the most cost-effective way of mitigating the damage they cause is by preventing their introduction. This event has helped strengthen biosecurity measures and border controls across the EU, which are essential if we are to halt biodiversity loss in the European Union and globally. IUCN and its Species Survival Commission Invasive Species Specialist Group fully commit to supporting all stakeholders as they address threats from invasive alien species, in line with the European Union policy on invasive alien species and the EU Biodiversity Strategy.”

Dr Grethel Aguilar, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Next steps

Following the results of the event, the European Commission will continue to support Member States in addressing any challenges and needs for a proper implementation of the Regulation on Invasive Alien Species.

Press contacts  

Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 

David Jordens
+32 478 92 09 37

European Commission

Maëlys Dreux
Press officer
+32 2 295 46 73


Goska Bonnaveira
Media and Communications Manager
+41 22 999 0046