EU Balkans remain key partners in fight against terrorism
At the EU Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs in Slovenia, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said cooperation “must be intensified because the terrorist threat to the entire continent remains high.”
The EU and Balkan countries currently cooperate under the umbrella of Western Balkans Counter Terrorism Initiative.
Among those attending the Srbo meeting were representatives from Slovenia and Croatia -- both EU members -- as well as from Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia.
Avramopoulos, the commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said flow of flow of foreign fights into Middle Eastern war zones appears to have decreased, but the “question of returnees remains a shared challenge, as well as a threat.”
“It is absolutely essential that we enhance our collaboration in our counter-terrorism efforts on all fronts: starting from prevention and anti-radicalization, to stopping terrorist fighters from leaving and halting the acquisition and trafficking of illegal firearms,” he told the forum.
The former Greek minister for foreign affairs described as a positive change the slowing of migrants across the Western Balkans but cautioned that all countries must remain vigilant. He described the EU-Turkey agreement -- where Turkey agreed to take Syrian refugees returned from Greece in exchange for an EU visa waiver for its citizens -- as contributing substantially to that positive change.
“The EU continues to support the Western Balkans countries in these efforts, not just financially, but also operationally,” Avramopoulos said. “With the new European Border and Coast Guard, additional border management support will now be possible in third countries, and the Western Balkans is a priority region for us.”
In addition, Avramopoulos addressed key issues for Western Balkans: mobility and visa-free travel. Proposals are already in place to tighten the rules around visa-free travel.
“In an effort to continue ringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU, and to facilitate, strengthen and safeguard visa-free travel, we have proposed the European Travel Information and Authorization System,” he said. “It will be cheap, quick and easy -- and it won't change a single thing for 95 percent of the travelers from this region. But it will allow us to better detect security and migration threats for the benefit of all of us.”
Avramopoulos said he hoped the new measures will pave the way to allow Kosovars to travel visa-free.
Organizations in this story
European Union Brussels, Belgium Brussels, Brussels