Monday

15th Aug 2022

Balkans must fight harder against organised crime, says EU

The European Union has urged Western Balkan countries to intensify their fight against organised crime, illegal trafficking and corruption.

This was the conclusion of a two-day conference in Brussels held by justice and home affairs ministers from the European Union and representatives of the Western Balkans.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Countries were urged to fight trafficking, organised crime and corruption. (Photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud/norden.org)

Ministers also said they should join forces because organised crime is not only a regional problem but an international one.

The conference was organised by the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Representatives from all Western Balkan states took part, including Kosovo and Serbia.

For this reason it was necessary to keep the meeting informal and to name ministers but not participating countries – Serbia would not have agreed to take part in a meeting if Kosovo was formally represented on a equal footing to other states.

The EU considers the Western Balkans a region of prospective members but also as a transition zone for organised crime and an entry point for criminals or criminal groups coming into member states.

During the conference in Brussels, the EU welcomed growing cooperation between the states in the region as well as the cooperation of the authorities in those states with different EU agencies, such as Europol, and with authorities in the EU member states.

Two of the important topics discussed were illegal migration and visa policy. The EU has lifted visa requirements for all Balkans states except Kosovo, but there is growing concern in some member states, such as Belgium, Sweden and Germany, that visa-free travel will be misused by false asylum seekers from the region.

Some EU countries have warned their Balkan colleagues that the union could deny their citizens visas if the number of asylum seekers or instances of the misuse of the visa-free system increase.

According to sources from both the EU and Balkan states, some ministers from the Balkan region have blamed what they consider "too high social standards in the EU" as a reason why people from the region seek asylum in western Europe. They have expressed readiness to take back all false asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, Kosovar interior minister Bajram Rexhepi asked the EU to treat Kosovo equally and to give it an opportunity to start talks about lifting visa rules. There are many voices within the EU suggesting that Kosovo should not remain a black hole in the region when it comes to travel opportunities for its citizens. But many EU member states first want to see how the government will work together with other countries.

Yugoslavia and the profits of doom

The nation once called Yugoslavia collapsed into a deadly maelstrom through the 1990s. Now new facts are emerging that show other nations had a hand in stoking the destruction which engulfed the Balkans.

Feature

The changing face of Europe's mafia

The landscape of European organised crime is “completely changing”, says the director of Europe's leading research institute into organised crime groups.

Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey

The Swedish government has agreed to extradite a Turkish citizen with Kurdish roots wanted for credit card fraud to Turkey, amid the backdrop of Turkey's Nato threat.

Opinion

EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive

The EU needs to be clear eyed about China's new diplomatic charm offensive, as it's more likely driven by short-term necessity than any fundamental policy re-assessment.

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Beijing's club was meant to forge stronger European relations. Lithuania left it last year. Now Estonia and Latvia have also decided to walk over Chinese bullying.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us