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Ministerial conference of the IPA II Project

31/10/2018

Countering serious crime in the Western Balkans

Yesterday, the Ministerial Conference of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA II) 2014-2020 (IPA II Project) took place in Brindisi, Italy. Attending on behalf of Eurojust was Mr Filippo Spezia, Vice-President and National Member for Italy. The conference brought together ministers, high-level prosecutors and police from the Western Balkan States and Italy, law enforcement authorities, ambassadors and Commission staff, as well as officials from Eurojust, Europol and INTERPOL, to discuss the ongoing challenges of countering serious cross-border organised crime in the region.

Photo © Brindisi Report

Mr Spiezia spoke about the importance of integrating both judicial and law enforcement dimensions when tackling all organised cross-border crime, including crime involving the Western Balkans. He explained that the new Eurojust Regulation, which will be approved on 6 November, will improve Eurojust’s operational capacity and cooperation with third States.

The Western Balkans is among Eurojust’s main geographical area priorities for 2018 and 2019, along with the MENA countries and Latin America, as set by priorities in the EU Policy Cycle.

Mr Spiezia said, ‘Eurojust recognises the strategic value of cooperation with the Western Balkans. We share a common concept of security. We need to join our efforts and share experience to make us more effective and efficient to face common challenges, including returning foreign fighters. Eurojust stands ready to properly and efficiently support the work of the EU authorities and the Western Balkan countries in these challenges. It encourages the Western Balkan countries to nominate contact points for counter-terrorism, and welcomes the involvement of the Western Balkan States in Eurojust cases, in light of the importance of these countries for the maintenance of EU internal security and the fight against organised crime and terrorism.’

Eurojust has signed cooperation agreements with fYROM, Montenegro, and, most recently, Albania. A Liaison Prosecutor from Montenegro is posted at Eurojust; a Liaison Prosecutor from fYROM will take up duties at Eurojust next month.

From 1 January 2015 until 22 October 2018, Eurojust registered 201 cases involving Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, fYROM, Montenegro and Serbia. The main crime types covered by these cases are drug trafficking and swindling and fraud. In the same period, Serbia participated in 5 joint investigation teams (JITs), one of our major tools for operational support. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in 2 JITs. Synergies with Europol have streamlined the JIT funding process.

At the conference Eurojust and cooperation with Third States – Experiences and Challenges in the Western Balkan Countries, which took place in Podgorica in June 2018, Mr Klaus Meyer-Cabri, Vice-President of Eurojust and National Member for Germany, invited the Chief Prosecutors of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and fYROM to visit Eurojust.

Eurojust took part in the EU-Western Balkans Senior Officials Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs in June 2018. At the meeting, participants acknowledged that improving judicial cooperation in criminal matters remains an essential mutual interest and stressed the importance of establishing agreements with Eurojust.

Eurojust also took part in the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs (Tirana, Albania) in October 2018. At the forum, Justice Ministers discussed strengthening the rule of law and effective justice systems, and focused on the promotion of key standards for the judiciary and on defining indicators to measure progress of justice reforms.

Background
The IPA Project was established to provide permanent support to investigations and prosecutions, and contribute significantly to the fight against organised crime in the Western Balkans. The IPA II Project works towards reinforcing police and judicial cooperation between the European Union and the Western Balkans. Under IPA II, financial assistance is available to candidate countries and to potential candidates, irrespective of their status, and will be implemented by addressing the overriding objective of accession and a number of specific objectives.