J. Bernatonis: rule of law is the basis for fight against corruption

20 December 2013, Last updated at, 14:43 EET
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author: Council of the European Union

Lithuanian Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis with his counterparts from Western Balkan states on December 20, the second day of the EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Forum, in Budva, Montenegro, discussed relevant cooperation issues in the area of justice: fight against corruption, judicial reform, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, Roma rights and integration possibilities.

During the meeting much attention was given to the issue of fight against corruption.

“Fighting corruption is a policy priority and, without doubt, transparency is one of the tools that should be promoted. The importance of rule of law, in particular, the fight against organised crime and corruption is at the heart of the accession to the EU process,” emphasized J. Bernatonis.

Justice Ministers also had thorough discussions on other issues relevant for the EU and the Western Balkan region, such as judicial reform, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, Roma rights and their integration possibilities.

“We think that this is an area where we should cooperate closer in the future, so that our citizens and businesses could find solutions to everyday problems that may arise between a person located in a EU Member State and a person situated in one of the Western Balkan States”, noted J. Bernatonis speaking about possible enhancement of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters between the EU and Western Balkans.

Justice and home affairs ministers of Western Balkan countries, i.e. Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, took part in the event. The EU was represented by Lithuania holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, two incoming Presidencies (Greece and Italy) as well as representatives of the European Commission, Council General Secretariat, European External Action Service. Representatives of various regional agencies participated in this forum, too. Several EU Member States participated as observers (Austria, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France, Germany).

“Significant progress has been achieved in our cooperation; however, let us not forget that much work and difficulties lie ahead of us. We need special efforts in fight against corruption. Moreover, one should particularly work towards a strengthened rule of law in the Western Balkans as it is the basis for fight against corruption. In my view, the EU can play a significant role in helping the Western Balkan states to deal with this issue, by sharing best practices and offering both political and practical support,” summarized the meeting J. Bernatonis.

Moreover, Lithuanian Justice Minister J. Bernatonis had a bilateral discussion with Minister of Justice and Public Administration of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selaković. During the meeting the progress of Serbia in the European integration process was discussed.

"Having gone through a long pre-accession to the European Union process and gained valuable experience in reforming both legal and economic systems, Lithuania could successfully share this experience with the Serbian colleagues, by helping Serbians on the European integration road," stated Justice Minister J. Bernatonis.

P. Selaković also invited the Lithuanian Justice Minister to visit Belgrade and lay the foundations for a new stage of cooperation between Lithuania and the Serbian justice ministries.

EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Forum is an annual two-day event, taking place in the second half of the year: home affairs issues are discussed on the first day while the second day is devoted for justice issues. The first Forum was held in 2003 in accordance with the mandate of the Thessaloniki European Council Conclusions, which reaffirmed the determination of the Council of the EU to support the wish of Western Balkan countries to become a part of the EU, once they meet the necessary criteria.

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