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EU interior ministers focus on fight against organised crime

Minister of the Interior Boštjan Poklukar attended an informal meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union for Home Affairs in Antwerp and Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday – on the margins of the informal meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union – the ministers gathered in Antwerp, Belgium, where the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the Member States, the European Union agencies, the management of European ports, representatives of national customs services and some European associations, launched the European Ports Alliance. The aim is to bring together the European and national authorities and the EU's ports in the fight against drug trafficking, to strengthen the exchange of strategic and operational information and good practices between the members of the alliance.

At the meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, the ministers held a discussion to guide the Alliance's future activities. Mr Poklukar expressed his satisfaction that the Belgian Presidency is continuing the debate on drug trafficking, one of the most pressing security challenges of our time. He supported the establishment of the Alliance: "Slovenia also faces the threat of drug smuggling through our only international port, the Port of Koper. This is why the Slovenian police are stepping up cooperation with customs and port authorities, as well as with freight forwarding or logistics companies and the port's private security service. This cooperation has proved to be an important contribution to improving risk analysis and strengthening security measures in the port area," the Minister stressed. In the future, the Alliance will focus on identifying vulnerabilities, sharing good practices and finding practical solutions to enhance port security. They also aim to address and prevent corruption and infiltration by criminal networks through the implementation of international and European security standards and the cooperation of law enforcement and customs services with public and private companies operating in ports.

Organised crime is a major threat to the European Union. The latest European Union Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2021 finds that almost 40% of criminal networks in the European Union are active in the drug trade, earning high profits, and increasingly using corruption and violence.

Drug trafficking is a major form of serious and organised crime in the European Union, with cocaine trafficking being a particular problem. In order to develop comprehensive measures to combat illicit drugs, it is essential to cooperate with countries and regions where the main supply routes for illicit drugs are located and which are particularly affected by drug trafficking. Key partner regions for the European Union in this respect are West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the countries of North America, and for Slovenia the Western Balkan region. Cooperation should also be strengthened in the future with third countries that do not cooperate with the European Union and can be safe havens from investigation and prosecution. Over a working lunch, ministers discussed the risks and opportunities offered by the use of artificial intelligence for crime prevention, detection and investigation as well as its application for criminal purposes. Increasingly sophisticated models of artificial intelligence allow for a growing and broader range of reliable applications of this technology, including for criminal purposes.

In the context of the debate on migration, the ministers paid particular attention to temporary protection. As the Russian aggression in Ukraine is now entering its third year, the situation there needs to be closely monitored and protection needs to be further ensured for Ukrainian citizens currently displaced across the European Union. Ministers agreed that a decision on the form of protection beyond March 2025, when the current extension of temporary protection expires, should be taken as soon as possible, including consideration of possible alternatives to temporary protection. These could go in the direction of special temporary statuses, but all ministers stressed the need for EU solutions to prevent, on the one hand, mass applications for international protection and, on the other hand, the movement of beneficiaries between Member States in search of the most favourable solution for them. The debate will continue at future meetings.