Judicial cooperation between Eurojust and third states in the Western Balkans is increasing rapidly, and the trend is forecast to rise further in the coming years. Already in the first nine months of this year, more cases involving the region were registered, compared to the full year 2019, as Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran pointed out today during the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs. Serbia, Albania and North-Macedonia are currently amongst the ten third States most involved in Eurojust casework, and this in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following his presentation, Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran said: ‘Joining forces with judicial authorities in the Western Balkans is of great strategic and operational importance for us. Criminals increasingly operate on a global scale and we need to make sure that cooperation between prosecutors and judges also extends beyond the borders of the EU. Recently we have witnessed how quickly organised criminal groups adapted to the current COVID-19 crisis, but I am proud to conclude that not even a pandemic could stop us from achieving impressive operational results together with our partners in the Western Balkans.’
Eurojust has Cooperation Agreements with North-Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania. Liaison Prosecutors from the first three countries already work at Eurojust, with the Agency looking forward to welcoming a colleague from Albania. In 2019, a total of 107 cases involving Western Balkan countries were registered. Between January and September this year, the figure had risen to 110.
The cooperation leads to tangible results. In June of this year, a successful cooperation between Albania and Italy, coordinated via Eurojust, led to the arrest of 37 suspects allegedly involved in a drugs smuggling network. In April, Serbia joined forces with Austria, Bulgaria and Germany to dismantle two organised criminal groups suspected of large-scale investment fraud in cyber-trading. Just a few weeks after taking office, the new Liaison Prosecutor for Serbia at Eurojust was fully involved in this operation, enabling the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of EUR 2.5 million in criminal proceedings.
On account of the COVID-19 crisis, the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs took place by video conference. Despite the challenging circumstances, Eurojust remains fully operational, using secure videolinks to enable the continuation of coordination meetings and action days, with Member States and third States opening new cases at the Agency.