Speaking to today's EU-Western Balkans Forum on Justice and Home Affairs, Stability Pact Special Co-ordinator Erhard BUSEK said he was convinced the battle against organised crime was winnable: "But the condition is that we shift the balance and show the same tough determination as the criminals", he said.
The key was ever-tighter co-ordination between EU and regional efforts in South East Europe, Busek said. He told Justice and Home Affairs ministers at the forum that the work of the Bucharest-based SECI Regional Centre for Combating Trans-border Crime was a model of a successful regional initiative. The Centre recently received considerable attention by the European Commission and is set to become integrated into the EU as a EUROPOL Regional Office in due course.
"The Centre is connecting law enforcement units of states which never even talked to each other before," said Busek. "This is 'regional ownership' - a real transfer or responsibility - in action. And it is having palpable effects in terms of regional security and political stability."
He said that the Romanian chairmanship of the South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP) had strengthened regional co-operation of regional justice ministers who now co-ordinate their efforts against organised crime. As a result, the Romanian Chair will be presenting a joint input from the region to their counterparts in the Union, which represents a real novelty.
But a more general corruption remained a scourge in the Balkans, he said, and needed to be tackled with the same kind of urgency: "Governments need to adopt measures to improve the business and investment climate. The only way to do that is to take the bull by the horns, with much more intrusive legal and law enforcement action.” A clear signal had to be given that the fight against corruption was not just a phrase.
The Special Co-ordinator also reported that significant progress has been made on border management in the five countries of the Western Balkans. The goal of open, but controlled and secure, borders, agreed at the Ohrid Conference of May last year, was another "do-able" achievement.
"Much remains to be done, but we can be proud that 18 months on, just about all the borders in the region are under civilian control," Busek said.
Mr Busek also quoted the most detailed study ever made on Balkan corruption which has recently been completed by the independent Joint Research Centre on Transnational Crime of the Università degli Studi di Trento and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan .
For further information, please contact Mr Dragan Barbutovski, Stability Pact Spokesperson (tel: +32-2-4018725, mob: +32-498-982984, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)