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"Security in the Western Balkans affects security in the European Union" – Conclusion of the conference on strengthening cooperation in the fight against serious crime

The Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council, in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior, organised a conference entitled "Strengthening cooperation in the fight against serious crime – Contribution of regional OCTAs to security in Europe", which was held on 26 and 27 March 2008 in Vienna. The conference, which is part of the project "Organised Crime Threat Assessment for South Eastern Europe (SEE OCTA)", was attended by senior officials of EU Member States and representatives of police forces of the Western Balkans.

Security in the Western Balkans is one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council in the area of home affairs. The conference participants emphasised the importance of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations, which are essential for finding solutions to open issues, and pointed out that the role of the SECI Center (Southeast European Cooperative Initiative) needs to be strengthened. Anton Travner, Chairperson of the Conference, pointed out: "Despite the fact that, normally, each of us exercises their functions on their own side of the border, we are becoming increasingly aware that we are all on the same side of the border when it comes to combating all forms of crime, terrorism and other security risks."

"Given the fact that the security situation in the Western Balkans affects the security situation of the entire EU, we are paying great attention to the region. It is therefore our objective to strengthen the cooperation between police authorities in the Western Balkans in the fight against crime while transferring EU security standards to the region. The project SEE OCTA represents an important step as it introduces, through the support of Europol and the SECI Center, the methodology of organised crime threat assessment to the Western Balkans," said Sandi Čurin, national coordinator for the fight against trafficking in human beings.

The outcome of regional OCTAs can be seen in several different ways. It will represent a solid basis for strategic planning, intelligence-led policing in the region and for the EU OCTA. The education and training component of the project will have a long-lasting impact. Moreover, regional OCTAs will enhance operational cooperation in the region and increase mutual trust among experts.

The conclusions of the conference will provide the basis for the Conclusions of the JHA Council at the end of the Slovenian EU Presidency and thus reinforce the commitment to implement the project. The first threat assessments are expected in the first half of 2009, while their approval and adoption of measures are envisaged to take place at the ministerial meeting between the EU and the Western Balkans, which will be held in September 2009.


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Date: 28.03.2008