From 1 to 3 December 2021, the Congress Centre Brdo pri Kranju is hosting the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs.
At today’s conference, chaired by the Slovenian Minister of the Interior and the current holder of the Presidency of the EU Home Affairs Council Aleš Hojs, the ministers agreed that the Western Balkan region is an integral part of Europe. Minister Hojs said: “It is therefore important that we include the Western Balkans within the joint management of our common challenges: migration management, asylum and borders, fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and fight against organised crime.” These were also the main items on the agenda of the meeting of home affairs ministers.
The ministers first addressed the item on migration and shared the opinion that the management of migration is a common challenge requiring close cooperation. As Hojs said: “We shall continue to work on the development of identification and registration systems on irregular migrants in the region,” with the European Commission already expressing willingness to provide technical and other support. They also talked about tackling migrant smuggling by improving returns and concluding agreements on the readmissions of irregular migrants with the countries of origin. “We need closer regional cooperation on returns,” Hojs said and reiterated the need for the Status agreements with Frontex to enter into force.
During the discussion on the item on countering terrorism, extremism and radicalisation, the participants talked about the current challenges and threats to the EU and the entire Western Balkan region. They reviewed the state of implementation of the Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism and underlined the need to more effectively address the issue of returns of foreign terrorist fighters. As minister Hojs said, the response to these threats could be improved with regular and efficient exchange of information. When discussing the item on tackling organised crime, the participants reiterated the need for cooperation and for measures against smuggling, trafficking of human beings, drugs and weapons.
At the close of the meeting, Minister Hojs presented the conclusions of the Ministerial Meeting on the Prevention and Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse held via videoconference on 12 November 2021. “Our joint statement highlights the need for preventive action and awareness-raising and shows the wide consensus for the development of appropriate tools to detect and investigate sexual child abuse, the most serious of crimes due to the wide-ranging and life-long consequences for its victims.”
The EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum is held once a year and aims to strengthen regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations as well as support the progress in the Western Balkans towards European integration. The meeting was attended by the ministers of the Western Balkan partners, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, representatives of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) and EU Agencies (EASO, Eurojust, Europol, Frontex), and the representatives of the upcoming Trio Presidency countries (France and Czechia).
The video of the press conference is published on the official website of the Slovenian presidency.
Slovenia and Montenegro signed a Protocol on Cooperation in the fight against trafficking in human beings and child abuse for closer cooperation in this area, on the margins of the Forum.
Minister Aleš Hojs met with his French counterpart Gérald Darmanin on the margins of the conference to discuss the current events in the field of EU home affairs and the current state of negotiations on the dossiers in the EU Council. The French Minister of the Interior participated at the conference as the holder of the upcoming Presidency of the EU Council.