Our country is currently holding the SEECP presidency, from May 2005 to May 2006.
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC ORDER
PRESS OFFICE PRESS OFFICE
The Summit of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the countries participating in the South-East Europe Cooperation Process, ended today at noon in Loutraki, Corinthia. This Summit was held in the context of the Greek Presidency.
The Minister of Justice, Mr. Anastassios PAPALIGOURAS and the Minister of Public Order, Mr. George VOULGARAKIS chaired the Summit, in which participated the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers from the following countries:
- Albania (Aldo BUMCI, Justice Minister and Sokol OLLDASHI, Home Affairs Minister),
- Bosnia-Herzegovina (Slobodan KOVAC, Justice Minister and Barisa COLAK, Security Minister),
- Bulgaria (Georgi PETKANOV, Justice Minister, Rumen PETKOV, Home Affairs Minister and Boyko KOTZEV, Deputy Home Affairs Minister),
- Croatia (Vesna SKARE OZBOLT, Justice Minister and Ivica KIRIN, Home Affairs Minister),
- Moldavia (Victoria IFTODI, Justice Minister),
- FYROM (Ljubomir MIHAJLOVSKI, Home Affairs Minister and Subhi JAKUPI, Deputy Justice Minister),
- Romania (Blaga VASILE, Home Affairs Minister and Ion CODESCU, Deputy Justice Minister),
- Serbia-Montenegro (Zoran STOJKOVIC, Justice Minister of Serbia, Zeljko STURANOVIC, Justice Minister of Montenegro, Dragan JOCIC, Home Affairs Minister of Serbia and Jusuf KALAMPEROVIC, Home Affairs Minister of Montenegro),
- Turkey (Cemil CICEK, Justice Minister).
In addition to that, the Special Coordinator for the Stability Pact, Mr. Erhard Busek took part in this Summit.
At the end of the Summit, a Joint Declaration was signed on the fight against organized crime, trafficking and terrorism.
In his introducing remarks, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Anastassios PAPALIGOURAS pointed out the following:
?It is a great joy and honor for me to welcome you into this particularly important Ministerial meeting on the South-East Europe Cooperation Process, which is not only the fruit but also the continuation of the Inter-Balkan Cooperation.
I think that the importance of this Meeting mainly lies within the agenda, which speaks for itself: ?enhancing cooperation to fight human trafficking and terrorism?. Such an agenda requires and leads to the synergy and the complementary actions of two Ministries.
This meeting is all the more important in terms of the period in time in which it takes place. It is being held only a few days after the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers on January 24th; that was the meeting defining the general framework of cooperation in our region.
The Greek Presidency is moving along the line traced by its predecessors, aiming at enhancing the good neighborhood relation of cooperation in all fields between all countries of South-East Europe. We have adopted the motto ?Neighborhood in cooperation?, considering that this term directly refers to a practical, dynamic and active expression of solidarity.
In the field of Justice and Home Affairs, the conclusions drawn at the Thessalonica EU Summit in June of the year 2003 were of paramount importance as to the future of this region. These conclusions commit us in enhancing our regional cooperation in the entire area of South-East Europe and the Balkans. The fight against organized crime and corruption is a common problem to all of us and the way we shall deal with it shall also define the European perspective for the countries that shall soon accede to the EU or that aspire to such a status.
A prerequisite in order to fight crime in our region is to facilitate regional judicial cooperation. This shall depend on the adoption of specific measures in order to:
– Improve national legislation and the implemented practices,
– Adopt efficient national mechanism and methods of suspects? questioning so as to prevent and fight organized crime and corruption,
– Develop regional communication between the judicial authorities,
– Bring about harmonization with European and international standards.
The first and foremost priority should be to adopt the European Acquis and to implement it in a credible way, so that it will be possible to built confidence in the entire judicial network of the region. This confidence should be shared not only by the servants of Justice but also by society as a whole. Greece dates back to 1981 as a Member–State of the European Union and this is why it has made considerable efforts to keep alive the EU interest in our region, so that the countries of SE Europe can cover efficiently the distance in the road to the EU.
By cooperating and by taking advantage of our experience, we mainly aim at reducing the incidents of organized crime, corruption and other forms of serious crime that have acquired a cross-border character. It is a common belief that organized crime has acquired very dangerous dimensions both at the European and the global level. Furthermore, it is widely considered that crime in the past decade has changed thoroughly. The traditional picture of an isolated perpetrator that commits acts falling within the Penal Law, has now given its place to a collectively organized criminal behavior.
Organized crime does not only hurt its physical victims. It is also corrupting the institutions, undermining the rules of peaceful co-existence and filling the citizens with distress, particularly when perpetrators escape justice. Greece has adopted concrete penal clauses that relate to the cracking down of organized crime, including the provisions of internationally agreed texts.
Corruption is a problem undermining the social tissue and hindering progress. In Greece, it was of paramount importance to adopt a legislative initiative on our behalf in order to fight corruption and restore moral order in the field of justice, as soon as light was shed to the cases of judges breaking their oath and of extra-judicial circles interfering with the work of Justice.
Moreover, the organized crime is fairly active in the field of human trafficking. This phenomenon has deeply preoccupied the international community, which has adopted a series of international agreements in order to crack it down. Illegal trafficking and exploitation of human beings is something that brings the whole humanity back to the era of slavery, while it also is the most appalling insult to modern society, since it does away with our system of human values and rights. Furthermore, it is the one of the richest sources of income in today?s globalized organized crime. For instance, the French Commission against Modern Slavery (CCEM) considers trafficking to be the most beneficial sector of activities of organized crime, exceeding a great deal illegal trade of guns and drugs. Statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime rank trafficking in the third place.
In the past, the Balkan Peninsula used to be the visible frontier between the East and the West, between the NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact countries. Nowadays borders do not offer any more this watertight separation between regimes and ideologies. Our countries, the countries participating in the South-East Europe Cooperation Process co-exist, work together and head together towards the European Union and the ?acquis communautaire?.
Nevertheless, there is another ?negative? side in the cross-border cooperation, meaning that the obvious disproportion in various sizes of the economy has unavoidably given birth to a massive will for immigration; this is the hidden dream for a better life in the European land of El Dorado. The direct consequence and also the fatal repercussion was the rising of trafficking, one of the most deadly plagues of modern history that we need to eliminate from the face of earth. Our civilization cannot accept such an everyday crime to the detriment of human rights, social values and human dignity: this is an attack to the Rule of Law.
I have just attempted to provide an overview of the problems we need to face. However, these are also the challenges that we need to rise up to during this Ministerial meeting. I hope and I wish for us to reach unanimous conclusions and to prove a determination written in stone when it comes to implement in practice all that will be decided.?
The Minister of Public Order, Mr. George Voulgarakis stated the following:
?It is a great joy for me to be welcoming you in Greece, in the context of this meeting. The South-East Europe Cooperation Process is a regional initiative for which we are all proud, since it aims at keeping and enhancing peace and security in the greater region, not to mention economic development, growth and progress for both our countries and people, while last but not least it also aims at the accession of the Balkan countries in the greater European family.
This Process was proven adequate ? not only as a concept but also as an expression of solidarity between the states ? to send right from the start the message to the international community; it has been a constant and coherent message regarding the way our countries can solve the problems they are faced with.
I am more than convinced that that we all agree that this Organization has contributed a great deal to the peace-keeping effort in this tormented region. Under this angle, the development of regional cooperation is becoming an objective all the more important, while it still remains a necessary prerequisite for the European Integration of the Balkan countries. This has been more than once stated in the conclusions of the various EU Councils and of the various meetings in the context of the SEECP.
The issues discussed yesterday by our experts are the most significant weapons in the fight against international organized crime. Organized crime creates such threats and challenges today that it is undermining our efforts to protect institutions and consolidate conditions of security and economic growth and prosperity in the greater region. The fact that both our Ministries have jointly organized this Meeting and that so many Ministers have come to follow the works are proof of the need for a more efficient cooperation and coordination between the Justice and the Law Enforcement Authorities in all the countries.
The choice of the agenda was certainly not made by accident; we specifically wanted to include organized crime and terrorism in the agenda so as to reflect our deepest concern about the repercussions all this may have to the security of our citizens, to the respect of human rights and to the entire society. We all realize that organized crime ? and in particular, trafficking aimed at sexual or financial exploitation ? may not be dealt with by the different countries in an isolated way. This is an international and complex phenomenon; Organized crime has adopted a structured behavior that produces very negative results in the social, financial and organizational fields and that is why wider solutions need to be found through the enlarged cooperation between our countries.
In addition to that, terrorism is no longer limited within the borders of one country, particularly after September 11th. This is widely considered as the principal threat to the entire world, jeopardizing security, freedom, human rights and the values of our democratic societies.
Terrorist attacks in the entire world are so ferocious, making targets out of innocent citizens, that there is no other way than to deal with this issue in a determined, coordinated and efficient way. Needless to say that we should not forget to strike a balance between the fight against organized crime and terrorism on one hand and the protection of human rights and personal data on the other. I think that a highly appreciated effort is being made in this Meeting and in this context I could not leave out the efforts deployed by other international organizations such as the UN, the Council of Europe, the Stability Pact, the OSCE, the BSEC, the Adriatic and Ionian Sea Initiative, the SECI etc.
I firmly believe that the time has come to move over from a theoretical approach to a more practical and operational approach. Our goal is to draft a text that shall serve as basis so as to further enhance our cooperation. Greece believes that the SEECP needs to be further fortified, becoming a forum so as to promote the access of the countries in the European Union. We have repeatedly stated this position in the Council of Ministers of the EU. In this context we should seek to correlate more our Initiative to the EU institutions in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (Europol, Eurojust, κ.λ.π.), so as to promote the accession process and make the countries more familiar with the EU acquis.
Despite the differences in substance or in the formalities when dealing with regional issues, the Inter–Balkan Cooperation has proven that it can indeed bear fruit since it has always adopted a realistic approach. The countries themselves need to provide the solutions to the problems, thus proving the merit of their European perspectives.
Let me end by expressing once again my outmost conviction that this meeting in Loutraki and the adoption of the Draft Joint Declaration shall become a landmark in our cooperation and shall give the necessary momentum so as to effectively deal with such cross-border phenomena.?
The main parts of the Joint Declaration signed by the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs of the countries of South-East Europe are as follows:
The Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs/Public Order of the countries participating in the South-East Europe Cooperation Process, met in Loutraki, on February 8th, 2006, to discuss the perspective of enhancing their cooperation in the field of trafficking and terrorism and review the progress made in the fight against organized crime and corruption.
Taking into account:
- The serious dimensions acquired by organized crime and particularly trafficking, which is a serious breach of fundamental human rights and a crime against human dignity and integrity, but also the serious dimensions acquired by corruption and terrorism, which are a serious threat to international peace and safety, political and social stability and the economic development of countries,
- The Good Neighbourhood Relations, Stability, Security and Cooperation Charter for South-East Europe adopted in the Summit of Heads of State Governments, in Bucharest, on February 12th, 2000,
- The results of the EU-West Balkans Summit in Thessalonica, in June 21st, 2003 and the third meeting of the EU-West Balkans Forum of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Vienna, on November 25th, 2005,
- The initiatives undertaken by the European Union so as to further enhance regional cooperation in the field of prevention and fight against organized crime and terrorism,
With the conviction that the achievement of common goals and objectives shall be facilitated by the adoption of concrete programmes and actions,
Have agreed on the following:
- To enhance their action against human trafficking and terrorism,
- To enhance the already existing measures and agreements,
- To enhance cross-border cooperation in order to prevent and fight organized crime and terrorism, on the basis of the bilateral and multilateral agreements, taking into account the EU legislation and the Schengen ?acquis?,
- To enhance cooperation with EUROJUST and EUROPOL in South-East Europe, by concluding agreements, by pointing out the need to adopt national legislation in accordance with the rules and standards of the EU and the Council of Europe, fully respecting the rules regarding data protection,
- To make the best out of the expertise of the National Focal Points that have been operating in the SEECP countries,
- To examine together with the Joint Cooperation Committee of the SECI Center on the fight against cross-border crime, the possibility of enhancing the latter?s role in South-East Europe and the cooperation with other international and regional initiatives,
- To encourage the creation of a regular consultation mechanism between senior officials from the Justice and Home Affairs field, that will coordinate cooperation between competent Law Enforcement Authorities and draw Action Plans in order to prevent and fight organized crime and terrorism,
- To promote the creation of Working Groups of Judges-Public Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Officials, specialized in trafficking and terrorism, which will suggest measures for an efficient exchange of relative information, draw up annual reports on the situation and assess the threats where needed and manage the initiative-undertaking process at the operational level,
- To improve training of Justice and Police Authorities, making them more familiar with the EU ?acquis? in the filed of Justice and Home Affairs,
- To assign to the SEECP Presidency the task of briefing the next JHA EU Council of Ministers on the conclusions of this Meeting.
– The script of the Joint Press Conference is attached hereby.
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