Despite efforts, illicit arms trade continues to flourish, forum attendees learn
At the EU Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs in Brdo, Julian King talked up the importance of the gathering’s joint statement on the issue, which stressed collaboration across the Balkans and outlined “concrete” steps to deal with cross border arms trafficking.
The forum heard that Europol guest officers will soon be deployed in the region, one of the steps agreed on by the parties.
Among those attending were representatives from Slovenia, Croatia, both EU members, as well as from Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia.
There is a clear set of priorities and objectives that need to be focused on to combat the illegal trade in arms, said King, who was appointed to the post in September.
“But we as we do that we should also think about controls around legal firearms so that we make greater progress on the ground limiting the amount of illegal arms which still circulate too freely,” King told last month’s gathering.
The commissioner of security union opened his remarks by noting the progress made on the ground with national laws increasingly harmonized -- particularly on the regulation of the buying and control of firearms and explosives.
“Joint investigations are taking place more often,” he said. “But we need to keep up our work because despite those efforts the illicit trade of firearms continues to flourish.”
King also outlined details of the joint statement drawn up by the EU team and their counterparts among the Western Balkans delegation.
“First, we need to enhance the exchange of information and intelligence in the Western Balkans region and with EU Member States,” he said. “As we have heard, Europol is central to making progress in this field, and it will soon also be deploying guest officers in the region to further deepen cooperation.”
King urged the better use of existing databases to make sure they are fed and contain the relevant data on illicit production, stockpiling and trafficking of firearms and ammunition.
This will allow those using the databases to have the best information available, he told the gathering. According to King, security and safety of stockpiles need to be further increased, while voluntary surrender of firearm programs will be examined.
Common training programs will be enhanced, as well.
“In the EU, member states are on the point of agreeing a new framework which will strengthen controls around the most dangerous weapons and reinforce traceability,” King said.
It issued a firearms directive Dec. 20, several days after the conference.
“Taken together, these are important steps towards enhancing the security of our citizens and complement our work on illegal firearms trafficking,” the commissioner said.
King concluded by saying that the “two burning issues of today are the challenges of migration and reinforcing our shared security.”
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