EU and SE Europe to enhance cooperation in countering illicit firearms trafficking
Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs has attended a high-level videoconference meeting on countering illicit firearms trafficking in South East (SE) Europe on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which focused on closer regional cooperation in prevention of illicit firearms trafficking.
Participants of the high-level meeting, organised by the European Commission, presented political guidelines for implementation of specific measures from the 2020-2025 EU action plan on firearms trafficking for SE Europe as well as implementation of the Regional Roadmap for comprehensive Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) control in the Western Balkans. Availability of illicit firearms in the EU poses a major threat, as it increases the risk of their use in terrorist attacks and organized crime.
"According to the findings of the latest SOCTA threat assessment report, trade in illegal firearms enables other criminal activities such as drug trafficking, and amplifies the threat of violent incidents, in which even innocent bystanders may be seriously harmed," Minister Hojs noted, adding that cooperation with third countries, especially in our neighbouring regions, is vital in order to successfully tackle security challenges, including firearms trafficking.
EU member states have set four overarching priorities in the Action Plan – Safeguarding the licit market and limiting diversion; Building a better intelligence picture; Increasing pressure on criminal markets and Stepping up international cooperation. "Building strong partnerships particularly with our Western Balkan partners has long been a priority for Slovenia, and it should come as no surprise that this is also a priority during our Presidency," Minister Hojs stated, underlining: "Every plan is only as good as its implementation in practice," thus calling for political commitments to be translated into concrete actions.
Participation in joint operations with EU member states has already brought good results (participation of the Western Balkan partners in the EMPACT Firearms priority). However, as the threat of illicit weapons remains quite high, the establishment and implementation of mechanisms such as the EU Action Plan and the Regional Roadmap, is an important contribution to peace and security at regional, European and global level.