NEWS

Balkan anti-crime pact struck

The escalation of terrorism, corruption and organized crime such as human trafficking in the Balkans calls for a tightly coordinated regional approach if it is to be curbed, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told a gathering of regional justice and interior ministers in Loutraki yesterday. At the close of the two-day summit of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), the ministers agreed to promote cross-border cooperation between their national police forces and justice systems on the basis of existing agreements, to boost ties with Europol and Eurojust (an EU body seeking to improve the coordination of member states’ agencies in the fight against organized crime) and to seek to enshrine European principles within domestic legislation. «The fight against organized crime and corruption is a common problem and the way it is tackled will also affect the European prospects of countries in the region who are soon to become EU members,» Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras told ministers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and Turkey. Voulgarakis drew particular attention to the problem of human trafficking as «an international and complex phenomenon that requires broader cooperation between our countries if solutions are to be reached.» The ministers also agreed to nominate high-ranking judicial and interior affairs officials to meet with their regional counterparts at least once a year to assess problems and draft action plans. They also pledged to set up a «working group» of judges, prosecutors and lawmakers specializing in human trafficking and terrorism to propose measures deemed necessary and to compile annual reports assessing the situation in the region. Moreover, judges and police officers are to be trained to comply with the European acquis communautaire.