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Press Release - Visa liberalization and fight against trafficking of human beings and firearms discussed at the EU - Western Balkans Forum
05.11.2012, 18:28 (CET)
Post-visa liberalisation monitoring and the fight against trafficking in human beings were discussed at the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum of Justice and Home Affairs, which started today in Tirana, Albania, and will be concluded tomorrow. The EU and the Western Balkan states also decided to strengthen their cooperation regarding the illicit trafficking of firearms. 

The Cyprus Presidency is represented in the Forum by the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Mr  Loucas Louca, and the Minister of Interior, Ms Eleni Mavrou, while Commissioner of Home Affairs,  Mrs Cecilia Malström, is also participating. The ministers or deputy ministers in the areas of justice and home affairs are heading the delegations of the Western Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro). The participants highlighted the need for constant attention and further efforts in the field of information exchange and project coordination, while they agreed that concrete results can only be obtained by setting up an even closer cooperation, not only among agencies within each of the Western Balkan states, but also at a regional level and with the European Union.  

Post-Visa liberalisation Monitoring

The importance of addressing issues arising from the post-visa liberalisation process for the Western Balkan states and the need to prevent abuse of the asylum system of the Member States by some nationals originating from these countries was a focal point of discussion during today’s forum. The meeting of Ministers was an important occasion for the representatives of the Western Balkan states and the EU to express their respective views on the current situation and to discuss matters of common interest in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. The meeting took place shortly after the publishing on 10 October 2012 of the Commission’s “Enlargement Package 2012” which outlines the progress achieved in this on-going process towards the future integration of the Western Balkans into the EU.

One of the most important topics for the EU member States and the Western Balkan states is the progress achieved with the Visa liberalisation dialogue and the subject of post-visa liberalisation monitoring. Ministers were informed by the Commission on the latest developments in this field.

Ministers acknowledged the importance of the continued monitoring of post-visa liberalisation of the Western Balkan states and acknowledged the importance of the effective implementation of the measures taken by them to meet the benchmarks of the roadmaps for the visa liberalisation process. On behalf of the Cyprus Presidency, Minister of Interior, Ms Eleni Mavrou, congratulated the Western Balkan states for the efforts undertaken so far with the view to tackle the issue of unfounded asylum applications and encouraged them to continue their efforts.

Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings

Ministers were informed on the recent developments in the area of trafficking of human beings in relation to the recent Commission Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in human beings 2012 – 2016 adopted in June this year, which underlines the importance of strengthening the cooperation with third countries and regions. As a follow up to the Commission’s Strategy, and in order to support its objectives, the Presidency presented the Council Conclusions that were adopted at the JHA Council on 26 October 2012. The main legislative EU instrument within the field is the Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims, adopted in April 2011. The Directive will enter into force next year, together with the newly adopted Commission strategy and will then facilitate cooperation and law enforcement and improve the assistance, support and protection of victims.

During the discussions, Ministers focused on cooperation and coordination with third countries. Ms Mavrou added that “preventing and combating trafficking of human beings is one of the priorities of the Cyprus Presidency and the cooperation with the Western Balkans in this matter is an issue of common concern. Concrete results can only be obtained by setting up an even closer cooperation, not only among agencies within each of the Western Balkans, but also at a regional level and with the European Union.”

Combating illicit trafficking of firearms

Another topic discussed was the crucial issue of the illicit trafficking of firearms from the Western Balkans to the EU, which is usually connected to other types of organised crime. Both sides agreed that further developing the operational cooperation within the framework of the Operational Action Plan, as it was adopted by the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI), is key to successfully tackling the trafficking of firearms. On behalf of the Cyprus Presidency, Mr Louca welcomed the adoption of the “Declaration on enhancing the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking of Firearms and Ammunition in the Western Balkans”, by the Western Balkan states. Mr. Louca stressed that this is an important step forward, “signalling Western Balkans’ commitment to closely cooperate with the EU and decisively tackle this serious type of crime”.

During the course of Tuesday’s discussions, the delegations will look at ways of enhancing judicial cooperation in criminal matters, with the view to making decisive contributions to the fight against organised and transnational crime. Mr Louca noted that “we will exchange views concerning judicial cooperation in civil matters in an attempt to find solutions and best practices to issues affecting the citizens’ daily life as well as various routine activities led by businesses in the European internal market”.

Finally, a number of other important issues will be addressed, such as the importance of transparency in combating corruption, the fight against drugs as well as the integration and protection of the rights of the Roma.

Communications Officer
Dina Kapardis

Ministry of Interior
EU Affairs Unit
Email: ckapardis@moi.gov.cy
Telephone: +357 22867721
Communications Officer
Lefki Solomontos

Ministry of Justice & Public Order

Email: lsolomontos@mjpo.gov.cy
Telephone: +357 22805996

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