Ministers of EU and Western Balkans adopted joint declaration on the drugs issues

20 December 2013, Last updated at, 15:29 EET
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author: EP

Today during the meeting of ministers of home affairs of European Union (EU) and Western Balkans countries, which took place in Budva (Montenegro), the issues of visa liberalisation, illegal migration, foreign fighters, illegal trafficking in firearms, as well cooperation in the area of drugs control were discussed.

Ministers reviewed the progress of the Western Balkans countries while seeking the EU membership. It was underlined that the rule of law is a core value of the European Union and the guiding principle of the enlargement process. The EU positively assesses the going on dialogue with the Western Balkans countries, and particularly – their efforts to implement reforms in justice and home affairs area.

The Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council stressed necessity of further active monitoring of the post-visa liberalisation, as the EU member states are concerned about abuses of the citizens of Western Balkans countries while submitting asylum applications. “Strengthening of operational cooperation is a key measure in the fight against abusing the EU asylum system. We should take all necessary actions seeking to have a secure environment for a visa-free regime between EU and Western Balkans countries.“ – Minister of Home Affairs of Lithuania Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas states.

The Lithuanian Presidency and the European Commission underlined the threat raised by the so-called foreign fighters in Syria. The number of foreign fighters who left EU for Syria amounts approximately to 2000. EU is concerned about non-EU citizens having left for Syria as well. There are also such persons who departed from the Western Balkans countries, and their number amounts approximately to 400. „ It is our common challenge, we should take coordinated actions.“ – Minister of Home Affairs emphasized.

Ministers discussed the issue of illegal trafficking in firearms and agreed to set the Firearms Experts Network in the Western Balkans countries, which, in cooperation with the neighboring EU states and Europol, will contribute to the fight against illegal trafficking of firearms in the region.

Speaking about the problems of illegal migration, the ministers stressed the importance of cooperation. “Effective state border management is a measure to contribute to decreasing the flows of illegal migration. Necessary instrument is a regional cooperation between EU and Western Balkans countries“– Minister of Home Affairs of Lithuania Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas states.

During the meeting, the ministers approved the Joint Declaration of EU-Western Balkans on strengthening cooperation in the area of drugs control and updating of EU-Western Balkans Action Plan on Drugs (2009–2013).

The ministers of home affairs of the Western Balkans states – Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia – took part in the meeting. EU was represented by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council and future presidencies of Greece and Italy, representatives of the Council‘s General Secretariat, European Commission, European External Action Service, Europol, Eurojust and different regional agencies. Representatives of Austria, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France and Germany participated as observers.

Next EU and Western Balkans meeting will be arranged during the Italian Presidency of the EU Council, second half of 2014.
 

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