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Speech of the Minister Mate on Security as a Common Good and on Visa Liberalisation with Montenegro

Mr Prime Minister,



Ladies and gentlemen,

May I take this opportunity first of all to express, on behalf of the EU Presidency, my thanks to the Ministry of the Interior of Montenegro and to the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) for organising this conference. I would also like to extend my appreciation and compliments to all the countries of the region for the remarkable progress they have achieved in the last few years.

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. This increased awareness is reflected in specific activities and reinforced police and border police cooperation regardless of the origin of police forces. After the sad and tragic events that occurred in the Western Balkans, the countries of this region are intensively building reciprocal ties on a sound foundation and in mutual respect. Closer cooperation in economic, cultural, information and other fields is followed by increased cooperation in combating all forms of crime and terrorism.

This cross-border police cooperation has already passed from an individual level based on cooperation between individuals to an institutional level. The countries in the region have already concluded a number of agreements on cross-border police cooperation and have even progressed beyond that. I believe that the switch from bilateral cross-border cooperation to regional cross-border cooperation is of great significance. The signing of a modern and comprehensive Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe means genuine progress, not only benefiting the populations of the contracting parties but with much wider favourable effects.

The fact that Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia have already ratified the Convention is a strong political message that the region is willing and able to raise the level of security for the people living in the region and beyond. Even more importantly, the Convention is based on ensuring fundamental human rights and brings to the region the latest standards applicable in the EU Member States. This certainly constitutes remarkable progress in the region, which has not been overlooked by the EU Council or, I am sure, the European Commission.

I have been informed that some implementation agreements and protocols, which will serve as the legal basis for the implementation of the Convention, are due to be signed at this conference; agreements and protocols for effective cross-border police cooperation within the scope of border police activities have also been framed. In short, I am informed that legal bases for effective border police cooperation have already been prepared.

But regardless of this fact, I am sure that nobody thinks the work is over. It has also come to my attention that the countries of the region have made significant progress through various activities, workshops, seminars and projects held in individual countries and throughout the region. It has to be acknowledged that the activities carried out by DCAF with the assistance of top experts from all of Europe are truly fascinating. The results achieved in the fields of legal reform, leadership and management, education, risk analysis, technical support and investigation of cross-border crime are more than convincing. I am delighted to see Slovenia’s top experts participating very actively in the above activities. They gained experience in all fields during the time of Slovenia’s association with the European Union; their expertise and experience also contributed to Slovenia’s entry into the Schengen area on 21 December last year.

On 1 January 2008, Slovenia was the first new Member State to take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is definitely a prestigious honour and a significant recognition of Slovenia, a country that has achieved impressive progress since 1991, as well as a highly responsible task. Because we believe that all the Western Balkans countries have a future in Europe, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia chose to place the Western Balkans on its Presidency agenda as a priority.

Security is not a value that can be limited to a territory of an individual country. The security situation in any given country has implications for security in the region, on the continent and even on the global scale. Effectively combating crime, terrorism and illegal migration can be compared to a chain whose strength depends on the weakest link. In order to prevent the European Union and the Schengen area being seen as a fortress, Slovenia has made increased security and freedom in the Western Balkans priorities of its Presidency in the field of justice and home affairs.

To that end we have planned a number of activities and initiatives. Let me mention only some of them. As you probably know, the EU’s basis for determining priorities in the fight against organised crime is OCTA (Organised Crime Threat Assessment). Following our successful experience in the EU, we decided to propose that SEE OCTA be made for the Western Balkans countries as well. We have already drawn up a detailed plan together with Europol and Austria, while political consensus was reached last October in Brdo. In March, we will organise a kick-off seminar on the subject and, in April, special training will be carried out for the people who will work on OCTA in your countries.

Furthermore, I have already told my Austrian colleague that Slovenia is willing to participate in the ILECUS project. In addition, we are intensively involved in the reform of the SECI Centre and in negotiations on the SELEC Convention, Commissioner Frattini and I are participating in modifying the visa system, etc.

I would like to stress that the Republic of Slovenia is working hard to bring about progress in the field of security in the Western Balkans. Because we consider activities of DCAF in the region represent great added value, I have been given a mandate by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to sign an agreement today on cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Slovenia and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. We are delighted that DCAF has decided to establish a daughter institute focused mainly on the Western Balkans in Ljubljana. The Slovenian Ministry of the Interior will support this institute in terms of human resources and finance.

I wish this conference every success. I see it combines the political domain with the expert domain. I am pleased to note that many experts from the European Union and the Western Balkans are present here today. A conference of this type offers an excellent opportunity for all participants: experts obtain first-hand policy information and ministers are presented with expert opinions from other countries. It also encourages and ensures mutual trust and confidence between all participants. Success and progress depend on political will on the one hand and on the professional skills of experts on the other. In my experience (we saw this in ensuring the Schengen standards), staff continuity at the expert level is one of the prerequisites for rapid progress.

On the basis of the material attached to the invitation I see that the work programme for 2008 is extremely ambitious. The Republic of Slovenia will do its best to support the programme.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Mr Jusuf Kalamperović, Minister of the Interior of Montenegro, and Mr Theodor Winkler, Director of DCAF, for inviting me to this conference; I wish you success in the implementation of the programme after the conference and hope that further steps forward will be taken in the next twelve months.


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Date: 21.02.2008