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Presidents of Justice and Home Affairs Council Dr Lovro Šturm and Dragutin Mate attend 8th EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council Meeting on Freedom, Security and Justice

Slovenian Minister of the Interior Dragutin Mate and Minister of Justice Dr Lovro Šturm, representing the EU Troïka, attended the eighth EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council Meeting on Freedom, Security and Justice in St Petersburg, Russia, today. Besides the Slovenian ministers, the EU was represented by Jacques Barrot, Vice President of the European Commission, and representatives of France as the next country holding the presidency. The Russian Federation was represented by Viktor Ivanov, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation, Rashid Nurgaliyev, Minister of the Interior, and Vladimir Ustinov, Minister of Justice. According to Minister Mate, the meeting addressed important topics of extensive cooperation between the EU and Russia in the field of justice and home affairs, which contribute to the dynamics of the strategic partnership between the EU and Russia.

At last night's working dinner the ministers discussed the fight against drugs produced in Afghanistan and synthetic drugs. The EU and Russia expressed their concern about the current situation and the increase in opium production, which makes Afghanistan the leading international opium producer. The presidency called upon the international community to help in implementing a national Afghan drug control strategy. The fight against illicit drugs is a common priority according to strategic plans, and in Minister Mate's words, "It requires a comprehensive approach, including the exchange of objective and reliable data on drug routes, strengthening of cross-border cooperation, and regional involvement in finding solutions for the problem. I welcome the conclusions of the recent meetings between the EU and Russia on possibilities for further cooperation and exchange of information in this area." The presidency put forth an initiative to start a dialogue on stepping up the detection and prosecution of drugs at sea in the Black Sea region, modelled on the operation of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in the trans-Atlantic fight against cocaine trafficking.

Today's official meeting started with a discussion on the visa dialogue between the EU and Russia. The presidency welcomed the first technical meeting of the EU and Russia to study the conditions for visa-free travel as a long-term perspective. Minister Mate said that the implementation of visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the Community and Russia has proved to be a significant step in ensuring easier travel for all citizens. This is also important for the fight against illegal migration and the continuation of visa dialogue. The ministers discussed the promotion of cooperation between the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX) and the Federal Border Guard Service of the Russian Federation, which started in 2006 and is already very good. The presidency supports intensive cross-border cooperation between the EU Member States and Russia, which is of key importance for successful EU border management and crime prevention. It also supports possible agreements on local border traffic as, according to Minister Mate, the management of borders between the EU and Russia needs to be brought closer to a modern system that attempts to reduce waiting while fighting cross-border crime.

Dr Lovro Šturm, President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, spoke with the Russian delegation about cyber crime, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, and cooperation between Russia and Eurojust. Both parties support closer cooperation in the field of cyber crime, especially in the detection and prosecution of Internet content on sexual abuse of children, and abuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes.

The ministers further talked about cooperation between the European Police College (CEPOL) and Russia, and supported negotiations and signing a protocol of intent, which opens the door to future cooperation between the two parties. Minister Mate pointed out that the possibility of such cooperation confirms a common interest in improving the efficiency of police forces in the fight against organised crime by means of joint training of senior police officers. The participants also assessed progress in the cooperation between Europol and Russia, especially in the fight against euro forgery and trafficking in drug precursors.

The ministers also discussed the EU initiative for drawing up an assessment of the threat posed by Russian-speaking groups, as the fight against organised crime is one of the priorities of the EU-Russia cooperation. Such an assessment will make possible a comparison of all relevant information on organised crime and will serve as a basis for planning police measures. Thus we will get a broader picture of the threat of organised crime to the EU Member States, and, according to Minister Mate, we will encourage the development of cooperation between the EU and Russia in the fight against crime. This will also be an excellent opportunity to intensify the cooperation between Europol and the Russian law enforcement authorities.

The cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation in civil law matters is currently most intense in the framework of international instruments of the Hague conference on private international law. The EU and RF are striving to promote cooperation particularly in the area of family law. Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the progress of consultations regarding a potential agreement in civil law.

In the field of criminal law, both sides are involved in updating the Council of Europe's European Convention on Extradition of 1957. The EU and RF exchanged information on cooperation in the field of international legal assistance in criminal matters, especially as regards implementation of the European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, and any measures to improve the cooperation. It was agreed that Eurojust will organise a seminar where experts can exchange experience and views on any open questions concerning international legal assistance.

Participants confirmed their willingness to continue working towards the strengthening of cooperation between Eurojust and Russian law enforcement authorities, including a possible agreement on cooperation.

At the end both sides adopted a joint statement:


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Date: 26.04.2008