EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs to be held in Tirana on 17 November
The annual EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) will be held this year in Tirana on 17 November. The current EU Presidency, Finland, will organise the meeting together with Albania. The meeting will be chaired by the Finnish Minister of the Interior, Kari Rajamäki, and the Finnish Minister of Justice, Leena Luhtanen.
The EU will also be represented at the meeting by the incoming German and Portuguese Presidencies, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. Vice-President of the Commission Franco Frattini, EU Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, will represent the Commission.
The first JHA EU-Western Balkans Forum was held in 2003 in accordance with the mandate of the Thessaloniki European Council Conclusions. Finland will now organise the fourth meeting of the forum in Albania. The meeting will be held for the first time in the Western Balkan region, which will hopefully raise public awareness of the importance of JHA issues in the region and strengthen cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkan countries.
In addition to Albania, the Western Balkan countries represented at the meeting include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Kosovo will be represented by the UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo), but the new justice and home affairs ministers of Kosovo have also been invited to the meeting.
Commission Vice-President Frattini will present at the start of the meeting the Commission's Western Balkans progress reports published on 8 November. In the same context, the representatives of the Western Balkan countries will give short presentations on their progress in combating organised crime and trafficking in human beings, for example.
Building on the progress reports, the meeting will discuss under the chairmanship of Mr Rajamäki the Western Balkan countries' work in combating organised crime, corruption and human trafficking and on the border management in the Western Balkan region. Organised crime and corruption are real obstacles to the rule of law, democratic stability and economic development in the Western Balkans. The Balkan region is one of the key trafficking routes for heroin entering Europe from Asia. In addition, it is a region of transit and origin for illegal immigration.
The meeting will also discuss witness protection under the chairmanship of Ms Luhtanen. The aim is for the Western Balkan countries to tell what actions they have taken in terms of witness protection, what the related problems are and how to proceed from here. The Western Balkan countries are now expected to take concrete measures to protect witnesses. The EU considers it important that the countries in question introduce quickly legislation on witness protection, with emphasis on respect for human rights.
The one-day meeting will be followed by a Presidency press conference at 15.30 local time. At the close of the meeting, the Presidency will issue a statement on the outcome of the meeting.
For further information, please contact State Secretary Kari Salmi, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 40733 7085; Director-General Antti Pelttari, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 50357 7194; EU Coordinator Sebastian Sass, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 50525 2672; EU CoordinatorMatti Joutsen, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 50 374 0497; or Tanja Tamminen, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +355 69 31 80467.
Media programme, Friday 17 November
Meeting venue: Tirana International Hotel situated in Skanderbeg Square
At 9.00 (local time) photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting
At 15.30 (local time) press conference
For further information on the media programme, please contact Tanja Tamminen, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +355 69 31 80467; Head of Press and Communications Services Kaija Uusisilta, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 40561 2268; or EU Press Officer Pilvi Isotalus, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 50304 9932.