TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The European Union's border agency, Frontex, has renewed its agreement with non EU-member Albania to strengthen cooperation in border management, fighting cross-border crime, and returning migrants who enter the country illegally.

The renewed deal, signed online Wednesday due to the pandemic, comes two years after Albania became the first country that's not a member of the 27-nation bloc where 71 officers from 20 EU countries were deployed.

Their mission is described as “to support local authorities with border control and combatting cross-border crime, including people-smuggling, trafficking in human beings, and terrorism.”

Similar agreements have been signed with fellow west-Balkan countries North Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Albania is hoping to join the EU one day, and expects to start full membership talks later this year after it holds parliamentary elections next month.

In February, visiting EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson highly praised Albania for its work in jointly managing its borders.

Albania is not a preferred route for migrants, but some enter the tiny Western Balkan country to move toward Northern Europe.