Lithuanian Presidency enhances cooperation between the EU and Western Balkan countries

18 December 2013, Last updated at, 16:08 EET
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J.Bernatonis | author: EP photo

Lithuanian Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis and Minister of Home Affairs Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas on December 19-20 in Budva, Montenegro, in the EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Forum will discuss relevant cooperation issues in the area of justice and home affairs: visa liberalisation, control of illegal migrants, foreign fighters, firearms and drugs, development of judicial system, judicial cooperation, fight against corruption.

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, are taking part in the event. The EU is 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 intend to participate in this forum, too.

On the first day of the meeting, issues of home affairs will be discussed. It is planned to make a survey of the EU enlargement aspects, important from the home affairs area point of view. The issues of visa liberalisation to Western Balkan countries and its monitoring are to be discussed separately.

Ministers also will consider the problem of movement of irregular migrants from Bulgaria and Greece via Western Balkan countries to the territory of other EU member states. “Western Balkan countries should contribute to decreasing the illegal immigration flows by ensuring effective state borders management,“ – Minister of Home Affairs of Lithuania Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas states. In his opinion, both sides should cooperate more actively while sharing information and carrying out joint law enforcemeny operations.

Special attention is to be paid to the topics of the fight against terrorism and security, while discussing the problems of foreign fighters and firearms smuggling via Balkans and further cooperation in the area of the fight against drug smuggling.

On the second day of the meeting, issues relevant for the EU and the Western Balkan region in the justice area, such as judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, development of judicial system, will be debated. Also, there will be discussions on enhancing cooperation on the fight against corruption issues, Roma rights and their integration possibilities. Moreover, according to the tradition on the second day, which is devoted for justice issues, two incoming Presidencies of the Council of the EU, Greece and Italy, will present their priorities in the area of justice and home affairs.

EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Forum is an annual event, taking place in the second half of the year. It is organized by the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in close cooperation with European Commission and the relevant country of the Western Balkans which hosts this event. 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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